Bringing festive cheer to our most vulnerable residents

Published: Monday, 30 December 2019

Christmas is a time for families to come together and celebrate, but it is important to remember those who are less fortunate.

Cllr Benham, Salvation Army volunteer lunch
Councillor Robert Benham, Deputy Leader of Havering Council, sharing out the chocolate treats to Salvation Army volunteers

The Havering Council and Wates Residential joint venture has set out to bring seasonal cheer to the most vulnerable residents in the borough, through a series of festive events and activities.

The first event, on 10 December, saw 13 volunteers from the Council, the national developer, and The Salvation Army cook and serve three-course festive dinners with all the trimmings for 27 homeless people while they pulled crackers and donned paper hats.

45 local volunteers from The Salvation Army in Romford were also rewarded for their efforts when they tucked into a festive feast themselves to celebrate the season.

Joining the party was Councillor Robert Benham, Deputy Leader, who came to congratulate the volunteers on their hard work.

Downwell, a local demolition subcontractor on the Solar, Serena and Sunrise Courts development in Hornchurch, also donated 60 tins of chocolates for each volunteer to take away with them, worth £300.

A separate event with St Thomas Church in Harold Hill, Romford on 14 December saw 30 Havering residents living with disabilities, along with their carers, enjoy a Christmas lunch and fun day at St George’s Parish Centre.

The party included a festive feast, carol singing and dancing, and team games.

To further their support, Wates Residential and the Havering-based demolition contractor, Kilnbridge working on Napier and New Plymouth House regeneration site, have also been assisting a local night shelter which is seeking donations for a Christmas collection.

Hope4Havering opens its doors to homeless people in the area 365 days a year, with space for 15 male and five female permanent beds.

The food donated will be used to help guests cook a hot, healthy meal at minimal cost to the charity. Wates Residential and Kilnbridge have already collected £400 worth of food, but the shelter is appealing for more contributions including store cupboard goods like pasta, cereal, coffee, UHT milk and tinned vegetables. They also need household essentials like socks, toilet roll and shower gel.

The commitment to support the local community is part of Havering Council and Wates Residential’s joint pledge to deliver a borough-wide legacy through the ‘12 Estates’ project, building 3,500 new homes for local people over the next 12-15 years.

This has already included the creation of a number of apprenticeships and work experience placements, a special workshop for primary school pupils to use their computer gaming skills to road test and improve the design of one of the sites, and a pop-up business school to help residents who want to set up their own businesses.

Councillor Robert Benham, Deputy Leader of Havering Council, said:

“Events like these are a fantastic example of how regeneration can go far beyond building new homes. We are proud to be working with our joint venture partners to support not only our vulnerable residents, but the volunteers who work tirelessly to help them throughout the year.

“We have just launched a consultation on our new Homelessness Prevention and Rough Sleeper strategy, which sets out our plan to tackle homelessness in our borough. I’d urge you all to have your say and help us to help the most vulnerable members of our community.”

Kate Ives, Development Director from Wates Residential, said:

“Christmas can be one of the hardest times of year for residents living with additional needs, or rough sleeping.

"We are proud to support local organisations like The Salvation Army, St Thomas Church and Hope4Havering, which make such a difference in the borough.

“As an industry, it is important that we continue to look at what more we can do to help address homelessness, and support those who are vulnerable.

"We hope that the Christmas dinners, supply of gloves, toiletries and other items, and the food collection, will go some way to helping and look forward to continuing this work next year.”

Mark Cozens, Church Leader at the Salvation Army in Romford, said:

“The Salvation Army works all year round to serve and enhance our local community so it was a real pleasure to have the volunteers from Wates Residential and Havering Council supply and serve our guests both at the homeless drop-in Christmas lunch and the volunteer celebration.

"45 volunteers who work both at the Salvation Army Centre and Shop were recognised and thanked for their outstanding contribution throughout 2019."

Carol Baker from Hope4Havering said:

“I cannot thank everyone enough. We are truly grateful and overwhelmed by your kind and exceptionally generous act.

"You have provided hot meals for 30 people for at least 20 days and added bonus of luxury items too such as the coffee and biscuits and hot chocolate constitute luxury items.

"I have prepared a meal for tonight’s guest of roast meat and vegetables which is an amazing gift you have provided and an early Christmas treat.”