The St Mirren Charitable Foundation along with other SPFL clubs are bringing Christmas cheer to those that need it most this year with a new-look initiative designed to support socially isolated older people.
Festive Friends is now into its fifth year, but with life looking very different this holiday season, the SPFL Trust has teamed up with 37 ATCs to launch a new ‘at home’ version of the programme.
And critically, funding previously announced from James Anderson and the SPFL Trust’s second anonymous donor mean that a total of £87,700 will be committed to this year’s campaign.
That means that the SPFL Trust will be able to more than DOUBLE the number of people clubs are able to support.
As such, more than 2,400 people will receive a socially distanced doorstep visit to their home and a Christmas hamper, delivered by a friendly face from their local SPFL club.
It's been a tough year for everyone due to Covid-19, but of course it has been especially difficult for the elderly who are at higher risk of social isolation.
ATCs will receive referrals through existing programmes, external partners and public agencies, as would normally happen for Festive Friends.
Ordinarily, Festive Friends takes place at SPFL club stadia across the country. Participants enjoy a tasty Christmas lunch, fun and games, a club gift, as well as the means to get there and home. Almost 4,000 people have enjoyed an event in the last four years.
Physical distancing rules mean that isn’t possible in 2020, so clubs are flipping the entire operation, and will head into their communities to make thousands of doorstep visits.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) will also be assisting ATCs with deliveries throughout the festive period. In each SFRS delivered hamper, there will be fire safety advice leaflets for the elderly and vulnerable.
St Mirren Charitable Foundation Chief Executive Gayle Brannigan said: "Although we will miss the amazing event we normally have at the stadium, we are delighted to be able to take Festive Friends on the road and visit our guests from a safe distance.
Our partners at the Salvation Army will once again make our festive dinner and we will deliver this along with a gift and special hamper, provided by the SPFL Trust, to each and everyone on our list.
"Nominations are now open for you to refer someone you know who will be alone on Christmas Day and we need help in securing the items for our hampers so please get in touch with [email protected].
"It’s been a challenging year for everyone, but particularly those who are vulnerable & isolated, let’s give them something to look forward to."
SPFL Trust interim chief executive Warren Hawke comments: "This year has been challenging for us all, not least for those who are experiencing social isolation. Festive Friends has been such a successful programme that has grown year on year, and so we recognised that we needed a new approach to keep the programme going, in 2020.
Festive Friends At Home, is about more than just sending out Christmas hampers; it’s about delivering compassion, patience and kindness at the end of a year when it’s never meant more."
"We’d like to thank James Anderson and our second donor for their support in delivering this initiative. Their generosity will enable us to reach more people than ever before."
Assistant Chief Officer Stuart Stevens is the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Director of Service Delivery: "This winter will be incredibly difficult for many people across Scotland who are isolated from friends and family.
Not only is it more important than ever that we show compassion and kindness and reach out to those people who are isolated during the festive season, as a Service we also know that the risk of fire in homes can greatly increase at this time of year - particularly for those living alone.
"That’s why every hamper delivered by SFRS will include essential fire safety advice and guidance, and our staff are more than happy to speak to people for more advice or just for a socially distanced door-step chat.
"We’re therefore delighted to support this very worthwhile cause, working closely with our partners in the SPFL Trust and football clubs across Scotland.
"We would encourage everyone to safely contact friends, families and neighbours in line with your local Covid-19 guidance and make sure that no-one is alone this Christmas."