South Ayrshire churches bring fun food and Christmas cheer to 170 families

Across the country churches are reaching out to the poorest families in their communities to help bring the spirit of Christmas to children. In South Ayrshire, for example, four churches have come together to give 170 families the kind of Merry Christmas they could not provide themselves.

Lochside Mission Christmas
Lochside Mission Christmas in South Ayrshire organised trips and activities for children over the Christmas break including a visit to Santa

The four churches— Ayr St Columba’s, Ayr St James, Ayr St Quivox and Ayr Newtown Wallacetown have together raised close to £10,000, says Dylan Harper a youth worker for Ayr St Columba’s who is leading the Mission Christmas effort.

Mission Christmas is providing families with Christmas presents, a Christmas dinner, winter clothing and food hampers for Christmas and New Year.

“We have been fundraising with our Christmas concert and we have had great support from Cash for Kids, he says.

“All the churches have been collecting retiring offerings as well, and last Sunday at St Columba’s one person who wants to stay anonymous donated £5,000.”

Local businesses have been digging deep to help the effort too. Asda has been running a toy drive, while local grocery store Day to Day in Lochside has contributed £300 in food and is also supplying food for a Christmas dinner.

And the Hourglass Restaurant in Ayr is opening on Christmas Day to treat 40 families to a three-course meal.

“They heard our Mission Christmas appeal on the radio and called to say, ‘How can we help?’”, Dylan says. “They told me they want to give them the best Christmas they’ve ever had.”

“I am feeling completely overwhelmed with the generosity of people in our community,” Dylan said. “It is just amazing.”

On Christmas Eve morning Mission Christmas has organised a pantomime in Lochside Church. Then in the evening Santa Claus will be touring the neighbourhood in his sleigh, handing out selection boxes to all the children he meets. And that night Dylan expects around 80 people to turn out for the Christmas Eve service.

“It is really nice to see that people want to come to church,” he says.

Dylan says the funds, gifts and food are meeting a deep need in the community. Some of the children he sees are from families who can’t afford to buy them warm clothing or waterproof shoes, never mind presents.

“We have kids wearing thin shoes like plimsolls that have holes in them and wearing shorts and tee shirts because that is all they have,” Dylan says. “So we are going to buy some winter clothes for them.”

Lochside Santa visit

Mission Christmas will also be helping families who are struggling to pay their utility bills.

“One mother had fled from domestic violence with her two children but when she was given an apartment she found the electricity bill was £60 in arrears,” he says. “Because she had left her abusive partner her benefits were being reassessed so she had absolutely nothing.”

Another family even returned their Christmas food hamper, he says, because they didn’t have power to cook the food and didn’t want the food to be wasted.

“It’s heartbreaking how many people out there are struggling. We really are just scratching the surface,” he says. “What I try to remember is that we might not be able to change the world, but we can change one person’s world.”

This year, Mission Christmas will be changing the world for 170 families.

Ayr St Columba’s youth work is part-funded by the Church of Scotland’s Go For it fund.