Salvation Army Bognor Regis brings people together at Christmas

The Salvation Army works with those who find themselves on the edge of our communities and bringing them together, so people feel less isolated, is a key part of the support it offers.

This is even more important at Christmas time and volunteers at the church in Queensway, Bognor Regis, have been working hard to help people of all ages in various ways.

The Open House Christmas meal included an hour of carols led by the Salvation Army Bognor Regis band

The Open House Christmas meal included an hour of carols led by the Salvation Army Bognor Regis band

The Christmas Present Appeal has been widely supported by the community, meaning gift bags and food can be given out to more than 100 families across the area, including in Littlehampton.

Major Matt Butler, who shares the role of corps officer with his wife Sarah, said parcels have been put together with gifts for both children and adults, and Christmas Day food hampers have been arranged, providing a meal in a box, including turkey and vegetables.

He explained: “We get referrals from different families who need support. Lots of them will get toys and food but some just get gifts or just food, depending on what support is best for them.

“People are very generous, I have to say, and we don’t take that for granted. We are also very grateful to those in our church who volunteer. Some of them have been doing it for years, they know exactly what they are doing.

“Our little elves are busy sorting out donations and allocating gifts according to the age groups, then everything will be distributed on December 19, ready for Christmas. Where we don’t have enough, we will use some of the money we have been given to buy gifts to make it up.”

Mr Butler said they have made sure there are presents for the adults as well as toys for the children.

He explained: “Often, you find when people have very little, they will give to the children ahead of themselves. As a parent, you put your children first, so we try to recognise the parents as well.”

The church runs a community breakfast on Tuesday mornings, aimed at rough sleepers, the homeless and vulnerable people, but open to all.

Breakfast is served to 30 to 50 people each week, from 9.30am to 10am, and as Christmas Eve fell on a Tuesday, there was a special festive meal that day.

Mr Butler said gift packs were made up, with practical things like a torch, first aid kit, socks and smellies.

In April, the church launched a new Open House on Wednesdays, from 10am to midday, and this has proved a tremendous success.

Mr Butler said: “We recognise there is loneliness and social isolation, predominantly among the elderly but not exclusively.

“We had this idea that we have our doors open and the kettle on, just as a place where people can come. Some people bring knitting and there is a jigsaw.

“We spoke at the start about not being organised with it. We are hospitable and welcoming but people make their own drinks. We don’t want to impose something, we do this alongside them. It is about enabling people and showing them they still have something to offer.

“It is a good thing for us and we are able to build relationships with them, so there is someone they can tell if they are not okay. We are in it together.”

The Open House Christmas meal saw 38 people gather for carols from the band and a meal together.

All are welcome at the Open House, which will return in the new year.