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Taunton Mayor spreads Christmas cheer with charitable gifts

18 December 2020 : Council news

The Mayor of Taunton, Cllr Fran Smith, has gifted £1,000 in vouchers to Taunton families identified in need of support in the lead up to Christmas.
The £10 Asda gift vouchers were purchased using funds from the Alderman Spears Charitable Trust, which was set up in 1973 by former Councillor, Alderman and Freeman, Mr Frederick Cory-Spear OBE.
The trust, which is specifically tied to the Mayoralty and the former Borough of Taunton, is intended to benefit those in need at Christmas.
A number of families were identified as facing financial hardship, particularly during the Coronavirus lockdowns, through the close working relationships fostered with the Council’s ‘One Teams’ and multi-agency staff.
The Mayor of Taunton, Cllr Fran Smith, said: “I’m very proud of the voluntary work undertaken by our staff and partners, and these gestures will provide some relief to families and individuals who are vulnerable or are suffering financially in the run up to Christmas.  This fund was bequeathed to us specifically for those in need at Christmas and given the impact the Coronavirus pandemic has had on our communities this year, we felt now was the right time to make use of this fund.”
Along with the gift vouchers, over 350 Christmas presents, which have been donated by SWT staff, are being delivered to the families by the council's ‘One Teams’ coordinators.
Debt and Benefit Advice Case Manager, Denise Bradley, who was responsible for coordinating the initiative said: “I feel very privileged to be able to help add some sparkle to the less fortunate families this Christmas and I’m overwhelmed with the generosity displayed by my colleagues.
“We've been extremely busy over the last couple of weeks collecting, wrapping and delivering presents, and as these have been so generous in supply, we've had enough left over to donate to the young children at Brook Green Early Years Nursery and Acorns Children’s Centre.
“Thanks to all who’ve donated and a special thanks to our Tenants Action Group Chairman, Wayne Hobson, who kindly donated £200, which has already been used on a shopping list for a range of different gifts.”
Adding to the festive offer, the Mayor is gifting further cash amounts from the Alderman Spears Charity Trust, comprising: £300 to Arc and £300 to Dulverton YMCA to support rough sleepers, children and young people with dinners on Christmas Day; and £400 to Home Instead Senior Care’s ‘Be a Santa for a Senior’ scheme.
The ‘Be a Santa for a Senior’ scheme is an annual event set up in partnership with Cullens Catering and Taunton Armed Forces and Veterans Breakfast Club, to deliver hot Christmas meals and gifts to elderly people living on their own in Taunton.
Home Instead Senior Care Taunton Director, Vanessa Munson, said: “We have been thrilled to repeat our ‘Be a Santa for a Senior’ campaign again this Christmas.  We do this to spread a little cheer to people who may not have friends and family visiting.  As it’s been such a difficult year, it’s especially important that we look after those in our community who are more vulnerable.
“With the help of Tesco Express and St Michaels Church, we’ve collected over 200 gifts kindly donated by members of the local community.  This year, our gifts will be distributed to the Salvation Army, Wellsprings Community Church and The Manor Care Home at Bishops Hull.  Furthermore, Taunton’s Veterans Breakfast Club will be delivering gifts to elderly people, along with Ed Cullens’ delicious hot meals.”