Christmas Gifts 2020: Celebrating community responses during lockdown and beyond

Christmas Gifts are our way of marking the festive season in a spirit of generosity and appreciation for the incredible work of local charities.

1st December 2020

Pears Foundation’s Christmas Gifts are our way of marking the festive season in a spirit of generosity and appreciation for the incredible work of local charities.

Each year the Foundation’s trustees identify a number of small, community-based organisations to receive a surprise seasonal boost.

In this extraordinary year, our Christmas Gifts are honouring the fantastic community response to the pandemic. At the start of lockdown this spring an army of new volunteers came forward and new mutual aid groups formed, as did alliances of existing groups and organisations. Many charities quickly adapted how they worked or developed new services, in some cases mothballing their normal programmes altogether. We are donating a total of £140,000 to 22 local charities across the UK, who all showed remarkable agility and determination at this time of national crisis.

The speed and effectiveness of the early response owes much to the expertise of staff and volunteers of local frontline charities. They know their communities, understand their needs and are an established trusted partner. Many of these frontline charities were therefore ideally placed, and quickly mobilised and led local initiatives to alleviate the effects of the pandemic on their most vulnerable neighbours.

Young Asian Voices is based in Hendon, Sunderland, an area which was already struggling before the pandemic hit. The diverse workforce of this long-established local charity has built up trust with their approach which has nurtured integration and community cohesion. YAV were quick in responding to the needs of their local community, recruiting volunteers and setting up processes for vulnerable local residents to contact them for help with shopping, getting prescriptions and providing food parcels for those struggling financially.

On the west coast of Scotland, Mid-Argyll Transport Volunteers coordinates volunteer drivers to take elderly and disabled people to and from medical appointments, social occasions and on shopping trips. This all changed in March. The charity joined a council run hub to offer much needed shopping and prescription deliveries and the team were kept busy throughout, with new volunteer drivers filling in for those that had to shield. For several grateful clients, during lockdown the MATV volunteers were the main contact with the outside world.

Community hubs were a critical part of the emergency response in many areas. Age UK Scarborough and District coordinated a local community hub whose volunteers supported more than 2,700 households during lockdown, while in east London, The Magpie Project  provided food, baby essentials and emotional support for young families in temporary housing as part of a local consortium.

Local food banks found themselves in a perfect storm, faced with surging demand, supermarket collections no longer possible and many regular volunteers having to shield due to age or being in a vulnerable category. At Nuneaton Foodbank, over 80% of the volunteers had to step back from front line volunteering. The food bank still managed to stay open throughout, and at most points had a waiting list of new volunteers.

Pontypridd Foodbank had been at the heart of the community response to the horrendous floods in the Welsh Valleys. With barely time to recover, the pandemic hit. Run by a part-time manager they co-ordinated volunteers to deliver food across the region, and even supported a brand new food bank in a nearby valley.

The full list of Christmas Gift recipients is below.

As with all the Foundation’s grants, they are chosen proactively by the Foundation. The annual theme is decided by the trustees and is separate from the Foundation’s strategic funding areas. Previous years’ donations have funded inclusive leisure activities for children with disabilities, initiatives to address loneliness and support for young carers.


Christmas Gifts 2020:

Age UK Scarborough
Anfield Sports and Community Centre
Asylum Welcome
Liverpool Cares
Magpie Project
Neighbours in Poplar
Norwich foodbank
Nuneaton foodbank
Tower Hamlets Friends and Neighbours
Wapping Bangladesh Association
Young Asian Voices

Home-Start Caithness
Kincardine and Deeside Befriending
Mid Argyll Transport Volunteers
Royston Youth Action
Start Up Stirling

Cornelly and District Development Trust
Home-Start Wrexham
Milford Youth Matters
Pontypridd Foodbank
Stow Park Community Centre
Talbot Community Centre