Members of staff at Blackpool Victoria Hospital have been praised for supporting lonely and impoverished patients this Christmas.
Staff and visitors donated food and blankets at a stall run by the Patient Experience Team and Blackpool Salvation Army at the hospital on Tuesday, December 15. Donations will continue to be made through the Patient Experience Team in the run-up to Christmas.
Hampers will be made up by the Salvation Army and given to patients in need of support. Any items left over after the festive period will go to the Salvation Army in Blackpool.
Helen Kay from the Patient Experience Team said: “We are delighted that so many staff kindly donated food and blankets – the response exceeded our expectations!
“Patients who are discharged between Christmas and New Year, live alone and have no family nearby will be given a hamper which will provide them with meals for three days.
“We are very grateful to the team at Blackpool Salvation Army for making up the hampers for us.”
Charities and support organisations from the Fylde coast also had stalls at the donation event in the hospital’s main entrance.
Beverley Taylor, from the Salvation Army’s Bridge Project at The Citadel in Blackpool, said: “I didn’t expect the staff and visitors at the hospital to be quite so generous with their donations.
“It has been really overwhelming.”
Beverley said Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for people who live alone or are homeless.
She said: “People we see regularly are like our family and when they are in hospital we visit them and provide them with essential items.
“We are seen as the ‘next of kin’ for some people. We’re often the first people to ring the hospital when one of our clients is ill.
“It’s very sad when people are all alone, especially at Christmas or when they are in hospital.
“We have a fantastic relationship with Blackpool Victoria Hospital. Many of the nurses and sisters will ring us up and say they have such and such on the ward.
“We always want to know if our clients are in hospital so we can support them. We can also give practical support such as helping them with their benefits and making sure they have food when they go home.
“It’s much harder for people at this time of year. People can feel very lonely and they can struggle to pay their fuel bills.”
Beverley said the team of four staff and nearly 40 volunteers at The Citadel try to provide the best Christmas possible for people who use their services.
Beverley explained: “We offer a place for anyone who is lonely, homeless or on a low income to come for Christmas Day.
“We do a full Christmas dinner for about 60 people on average. Everyone gets a present such as socks or gloves.
“It’s really about the company for most people – having someone to share that special day with.
“I was doing a collection at Tesco when an elderly man came up to me and said ‘I’m on my own and I’m really lonely’.
“It was so sad but I was also happy that he came up to me and asked if he could come to us on Christmas Day.
“He’s going to come along – this sort of thing makes everything we do worthwhile.”
Beverley said the atmosphere at The Citadel is fantastic on Christmas Day: “It’s absolutely wonderful.
“It’s emotional and very moving. We have so many volunteers which is lovely. We are so blessed.
“People who come along on the day love it. Many people say they wouldn’t know what they would do without us. They say they’d be alone in their flat or on the streets.”
The Salvation Army is always delighted to receive donations of food, blankets and money to help underprivileged people as it costs £80,000 per year to run its services.
The charity supports people over the age of 26 and younger people are supported by the Streetlife project in Blackpool. An average of 50 people per day use the Salvation Army’s services in Blackpool and more than 2,000 people are on the charity’s books in the resort.
Beverley added: “Food is the biggest need for us. We rely on donations. Everything is used to capacity with us.
“We don’t know from one year to the next if we will be able to carry on but we always find a way.
“We change people’s lives and we save people’s lives.”
Donations to the Patient Experience Team’s Christmas appeal for food and blankets to fill hampers for patients can be made to the team at Blackpool Victoria Hospital over the next few days.
People can also donate food to the Salvation Army at The Citadel off Church Street in the centre of Blackpool. If anyone wishes to donate other items please call the Blackpool Salvation Army’s main reception first on 01253 626114.