Belfast’s Lord Mayor Councillor Nichola Mallon was in Marks & Spencer (M&S) Belfast to launch the 15th year of the ‘Giving Tree’, a cross-community initiative run by Belfast Central Mission (BCM) and the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP).
The ‘Giving Tree’ gives members of the public an opportunity to donate a toy or gift for local children with the gifts being divided equally between SVP and BCM before being distributed to families in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Shoppers choose a tag from the ‘Giving Tree’ to whom they would like to donate a gift – for example, a boy or girl and the age of the recipient.
Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Nichola Mallon, said she was delighted to support the Giving Tree and encouraged others to donate gifts too.
PHOTO: Lord Mayor and Child M&S [L-R] Mia Kane receives a gift for The Giving Tree from Councillor Nichola Mallon, Lord Mayor of Belfast.
“This is such a worthwhile project and encompasses the true meaning of Christmas – helping others and reaching out to those who are struggling in these often difficult times”, she added. “At this time of year it is especially poignant to think of others and offer friendship and support wherever we can.”
The two charities have been involved in giving toy and food parcels to local disadvantaged children, families and older people for many years. Fifteen years ago they joined together to approach Marks & Spencer with the idea of having a ‘Giving Tree’ in the store. M&S agreed to support it and continue to do so today. This initiative has grown each year and now many schools, offices and churches have their own ‘Giving Tree’.
The busyness of the Christmas season can mask the reality of the difficulties faced daily by many people; the lonely, the forgotten, the vulnerable and, especially this year, those who are facing severe financial difficulties.
Pauline Brown, Regional Manager of SVP, comments: “Each year more and more families approach us for support, especially over the festive period when budgets are stretched to capacity. It is becoming increasingly difficult for many families to heat their homes, clothe their children and put food on the tables – add the stress of finding money for gifts and the situation soon becomes overwhelming.
“The ‘Giving Tree’ is a great way for people to provide a gift that could bring a smile to a child in their local community whose family may be facing financial difficulties this Christmas.”
Rev Richard Johnston, BCM Superintendent said: “As a charity, BCM has been supporting people across Northern Ireland for 125 years and will continue to do so, particularly those most vulnerable in society. The support from Marks and Spencer for the Giving Tree has been invaluable and the members of the public have been so generous over the years.”
SVP has 1600 volunteers and work with families and individuals in need right across Northern Ireland through local groups. SVP volunteers carry out home visits, help with breakfast and after-school clubs and work in the 28 Vincent’s shops. SVP also provide financial and material assistance, as well as friendship, to those in need throughout the year.
BCM was established in 1889 as a Christian response to social problems in inner-city Belfast and its aim today is to support those who need it most in Northern Ireland. BCM works throughout all communities in Northern Ireland to help the whole person through a diverse professional social care programme and community projects, including support with housing issues, parent support and support for young people leaving the care system.
If you want to take part just pop into Marks & Spencer, Donegall Place between 1 – 13th December and find the Giving Tree in the toy department.