Getting in the seasonal spirit: How can you help your community this Xmas?

Mayor of Lewisham Damien Egan and volunteers at a Christmas collection. Pic: Mark Cooper

By Anna Prudhomme, Scarlett Sherriff and Dominique Boulan

Covid-19 has led to the most vulnerable members of society facing increased isolation – often suffering illness, financial losses and bereavements alone. So this Christmas it is more important than ever that those of us who have, give.

EastondonLines has compiled a list of organisations helping people in Hackney, Lewisham, Tower Hamlets and Croydon this Christmas. By supporting them, you can help to make sure no one is forgotten about in this very different festive season.


Hackney Xmas Dinner

Last year’s Christmas dinner. Pic: Hackney Xmas Dinner

Hackney Xmas Dinner is the Hackney branch of a charity set up by author and poet Lemn Sissay MBE. It provides a Christmas meal for up to 50 care leavers between the ages of 18 – 25. This year, events cannot run as normal, so instead the organisation is raising money to provide tablet devices for care leavers to take part in an online event.

The charity will also be delivering hampers of little luxurious surprise gifts to all participants. Suzanne Carey, who works at the charity, said: “Many 18 to 25-year-olds coming out of the care system have never really had a real Christmas.”

Be Santa to a senior

The Home Instead Care Home in Hackney collects gifts for the elderly. This global project endeavours to provide companionship and bring some joy at Christmas time. They are looking for chocolates, biscuits, calendars and puzzle books.

This year in particular, many older people in care homes will be lonely during the festive season. The drop off point is at the organisation’s Hackney base in Stoke Newington on 203 Richmond Road. You can donate up until December 11.


From December 1 to 15, the Community Closet project aims to collect 100 gifts for the most vulnerable children in the borough. They accept donations such as toys, books, clothing and toiletries up to the value of £10, for ages 5 – 16.

You can also donate to their GoFundMe campaign, where they aim to raise an additional £250 to buy gifts. The presents will be given to local children during the week leading up to Christmas. 


Hampers, food and toys

Working along the Voluntary Service Lewisham, this local branch of the Salvation Army will provide food hampers for elderly and isolated adults, supermarket vouchers for families, and new toys and books for children.

They run the same initiative across the country in partnership with local charities. You can donate new toys, non-perishable food or vouchers by dropping them off or ordering them online to be delivered at the Salvation Army, Albion Way, Lewisham.

From young to old

This year the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust cannot accept drop-off toys. Instead, they are asking for monetary donations to enable them to purchase toys themselves to hand out to all the children at Queen Elizabeth Hospital and University Hospital Lewisham.

The trusts also asks for winter clothing for elderly people, as relatives are not always able to drop off warm clothes due to Covid-restrictions.

A mayor’s appeal

Mayor of Lewisham Damien Egan launched a winter appeal for residents to raise funds for two local charities – the 999 Club and Voluntary Services Lewisham. VSL supports the most vulnerable of the borough and the 999 Club helps people experiencing homelessness.

To counter the financial strains families are facing due to Covid-19, these charities will give toys, gift vouchers, books and festive treats to children.

Mayor of Lewisham Damien Egan and volunteers at a Christmas collection. Pic: Mark Cooper

Tower Hamlets


Since 2012, the First Love Foundation has been providing gifts, food and festive activities over Christmas for people in the borough who are struggling. While a Christmas party at the Hilton like last year is not possible, they are stepping up their game to bring the festivities to families’ homes instead.

By making a monetary donation on their website, you will contribute to the full Christmas package. The charity will deliver a Christmas tree, decorations, Christmas hampers and presents to the doorstep of a family in need.

Video calls against loneliness

If you know anyone who might be feeling lonely over Christmas in Tower Hamlets, reach out to Tower Hamlets Friends and Neighbours. The charity will be calling hundreds of older residents during the holidays to tackle loneliness and isolation. You can refer someone through their website or send them an email.

Toys for all

The Toy Appeal at Canary Warf opened its doors for the East London Business Alliance’s annual toy collection on December 3. Members of the public can donate a gift to a child. The team of volunteers sort and deliver the gifts around East London. The drop-off point at Jubilee Place will be in compliance with all Covid-rules and accepts donations until December 18. Link to Aisha’s story on this particular appeal


Secret Santa

Whitgift shopping centre, Croydon. Pic: Fiona Holland

You can be secret Santa to a child who might not receive a Christmas present otherwise by donating a toy to The Central & Whitgift’s giving trees.

The Giving Trees are in the shopping centre until December 22. All you need to do is pick a tag from the Giving Tree, buy a gift and bring it to the Giving Tree Gift Box unwrapped. They will make sure it is delivered to a child in Croydon in time for Christmas. The trees are located on the ground floor mall in Central and the visitor information point in Whitgift.

Everyone deserves a Christmas

Bingo Centre Mecca Croydon provides Christmas hampers to bring some festive cheer to those who may be struggling this winter as part of their Everyone Deserves a Christmas scheme.

The club asks customers to donate non-perishable food, unopened toiletries or monetary contributions. These will be used to fill the Christmas hampers with goods and supermarket vouchers.

500 hampers

This year the Croydon Christmas Appeal, organised by Croydon Commitment, will deliver 500 hampers to the most isolated, elderly residents. Hoping to engage every business in the borough, they partnered with charities such as the Hygiene Bank to collect hygiene and beauty products and with Crisis to collect clothes, sleeping bags and shoes for Croydon’s homeless.


Something to unwrap

The Winter Toy appeal, run by the Local Buyers Club, operates in Hackney and Tower Hamlets – as well as several other North London boroughs. It provides Christmas gifts to children experiencing poverty, who might otherwise not get something to unwrap.

This year the gifts can be bought online. You can buy items on their wishlist or provide a financial donation here. All the money raised will buy toys from independent shops which will be distributed to children living in poverty.

Or you can donate to the fundraiser set up by Christmas jumper-loving eight-year-old Ben Boyt, who has raised over £1,000 so far.

Underneath the tree

The Met’s Christmas Tree Appeal will be a little different from previous years, taking a virtual approach because of Covid. Presents can be purchased online in their store or you can make a monetary donation for the Met to buy the presents themselves.

The campaign runs until December 16. Officers and colleagues from local authorities will deliver the presents to children aged from one week to 17 years who are in foster families, residential care homes, refuges, hospitals or from low-income families, across all boroughs.

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