It’s easy to forget sometimes, but we Brits are a generous bunch. I was passing through a tube station this month and watched volunteers from Wrap Up London taking part in the annual collection of warm coats and clothes for the homeless and people in need. London’s grumpy commuters of legend were bringing bags and bags of clothes to drop off and some even smiled as they did so.
People are often telling me how much they want to help out in some way during this time of goodwill to all. But it’s not always easy to know how to get started. So I thought I’d write this column how you can become involved.
How do I donate to a foodbank?
Like many of the tips on this list, it’s easy to track down your local foodbank with a simple internet search. The Trussell Foundation runs 400 foodbanks around the UK. There are loads of great schemes operating locally too. The trust has a guide for people who want to donate a food parcel – and non-food items are appreciated too. Why not check in advance with your local foodbank to see if there’s anything they need specifically?
How do I donate clothes to the homeless?
It’s really cold this winter, so why not donate warm clothes to help homeless people. You’ll need to check out the schemes in your local area, but Shelter, Crisis and the Salvation Army all work supporting homeless people.
How do I volunteer for a helpline?
Even if you can’t get trained up by Christmas, January is the time of year when people need help the most. Speak to the Samaritans or Sane about volunteering for their helplines – or if you have a favourite charity, ask them how you can get involved more directly. I know a lot of people worry about whether they’ll be able to cope with this work – and it may not be for everyone – but most callers to helplines simply need someone to listen to them and understand how they feel. So make a difference to someone who needs a friendly ear this winter.
How do I help an older person?
Older people often find Christmas particularly hard. Age UK offers a wide range of ways to help, from befriending someone in your local area to setting up events. Alternatively, just speak to your older or more vulnerable neighbours. Make sure they know they’re supported, check their essential services are working and invite them round if you can.
How do I find a charity to donate to?
There are thousands of charities out there so think about the issues that matter to you, then type keywords into the Charity Commission website (charitycommission.gov.uk).
It’s also possible to donate through your wage packet if your employer is signed up to a payroll giving scheme (also known as “give as you earn”). These schemes allow you to donate from your wages before tax and many companies match the donation.
Christmas is a time for reflection and helping others. But when the tinsel and tree come down, many problems remain. We’re setting up a special page on helping vulnerable people over winter. Get in touch with your suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service Resolver.co.uk