Yes, we know it’s only just November, but here at CENS we have already started planning for the festive season. It’s a busy time at the shelter, with all 15 rooms and Al’s Annexe fully occupied, and we know how important it is to make the Christmas period as special as possible for every one of them. It can be an incredibly lonely time of year for those experiencing homelessness, evoking memories of happier times and absent family and friends.
That’s why we are always so grateful that at Christmas, the community really does come together to demonstrate the true meaning of good will. As the donations of gifts, food, treats and money come in, and volunteers offer up their time to help out, our residents can see first-hand how much people really do care. These kind actions give our residents feelings of self-worth, dignity and confidence, the value of which can never be underestimated.
There are many things you can do to help our residents this Christmas – here are 7 ways you can make a difference.
1. Donate food, treats and gifts
We all know how much food bills have risen recently. We have 15 hungry people to feed every day, and at Christmas, it’s time for a few treats too. Next time you are doing your weekly shop, why not pick up a few extra bits for CENS? If you’re unsure about what to donate, you can read our essentials list here. We will be updating this regularly and will be posting on social media nearer the time with specific needs.
2. Access our Amazon wish-list
This has all the items we regularly need to keep the shelter running smoothly. You can select the items you’d like to donate and get them sent directly to us. Make sure you send your details too, as we always like to thank our supporters. You can access the list here.
3. Donate a Tesco gift card
Our amazing Kitchen Co-ordinator Emma runs a tight ship and is always shopping around for the best prices. Tesco is the go-to favourite supermarket, so gift cards from Tesco are always of huge value. You can buy them either in store or online. It’s simple – just select the amount, then you can choose to send a digital envelope, or gift box and email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Become a CENS Champion
Sign up to our monthly donor scheme. It doesn’t matter how much you give – it all helps, and giving monthly means you are helping our residents all year-round, not just for Christmas. As a CENS Champion you will receive regular updates about how your money is being spent, invites to open days and quarterly newsletters. You’ll become a firm member of the CENS community. To find out more about monthly giving, read our guide, or just head to our Donate Page.
5. Ditch the Christmas cards and send a charity e-Card instead
Sending Christmas cards this year? A first class stamp is now a whopping £1.25! Save the money you would have spent on cards and stamps and send an e-card instead. We are on the ‘Don’t Send Me A Card’ platform, so you can donate the money you would have spent and send up to 100 e-cards via email, Whatsapp or Messenger. It’s simple, you can upload your own photos, tailor the message to each contact and save time. So ditch the cards and make a big difference to CENS. The link to our Christmas card page is here.
6. Give As You Live
Did you know that Colchester Engagement & Next Steps is registered on the Give As You Live platform? This is an amazing website which has over 6000 online stores registered, including Amazon, M&S, eBay, Tesco and Trainline. Once signed up, which takes literally 1 minute, you can select Colchester Engagement & Next Steps as your chosen charity and every time you shop online with registered stores, you will raise money for a good cause. It’s a free way to raise money, the online shopping experience is exactly the same, so all you have to do is sign up and shop. The link to register is here. Just think, that whether you’re buying your groceries, booking a train journey or getting to grips with all that Christmas shopping, you’ll be effortlessly sending money to help our residents.
7. Set up a fundraiser
Christmas is a great time to set up your own fundraiser. Here are our fabulous neighbours after their Christmas fun run last year. Get your friends, family, school mates or colleagues involved and have a bit of fun whilst raising money for a good cause. For some ideas and tips about festive fundraising, read our guide here. Please don’t forget to tell us all about your fundraiser so we can help promote it and can thank you properly for all your effort.
However you choose to support us, we’d like to say a huge thank you in advance, for always being there for our residents and for always helping us make sure they all have a Happy Christmas.