The children of St Mary’s Hexham Liturgy group have been building a house during Advent!
Well, actually, they have been decorating a cardboard house with ‘bricks’ representing donations to a Parish Christmas card.
St Mary’s Justice & Peace group have provided a Parish Christmas Card instead of parishioners giving individual cards to one another for some years now, the donations usually going to World Gifts.
This year, as a one-off, the group decided to invite the Development Manager of StopGap, our local project for single homeless people, to give a talk about the project at Sunday Mass in preparation for Advent. The talk was an eye-opener to many people who did not think there could be homeless people in Hexham. A lot of donations from parishioners followed as a result of this.
StopGap began in 2000 as a Charity raising grant funding to purchase and re-model a small house in the town. Places of Change funding enabled the purchase of the next-door house and the complete refurbishment of both properties to convert them into one. Supporting People funding and further grant aid assisted the Project to deliver employment and life-skills training to Service Users during the day to enable them to progress to ‘move on’ accommodation, and eventually to secure their own tenancies.
Recent cuts to services have meant that this essential ‘value added’ work has had to stop with Service Users only able to spend day-time hours in the house on a Thursday when they make soup and meals from donated surplus food from Tesco.
Back to the children: they have learned about homelessness and its many causes, as well as having fun turning a shell into a welcoming home with bright windows and an open door. In the process, thanks to the amazing generosity of St Mary’s parishioners, they have helped to raise a fantastic £1,500 for StopGap. (www.stopgap-tynedale.co.uk). I'm sure you will agree that this is a demonstration of true faith at Christmas time.