The Christmas season is here and many of us will be looking forward to some well-earned rest as well as some time away from work to spend with family and friends. I too will use the time to recharge after a frantic year and hope that you find some time to unwind.

I also hope to use some of that time as an opportunity to reflect on 2018, and the political chaos around us.

Despite the political impasse in Westminster this year however, I have been personally touched by the countless acts of kindness and generosity by so many charities and volunteers across the country, and the campaigns they run. That spirit has swept across Tameside, and the entire Denton and Reddish constituency with countless examples of people giving up their time and money to help those less fortunate.

One such example is St Mary’s food bank in Haughton Green (which I will be visiting tomorrow). St. Mary’s Church and Community Food Bank was the first food bank to be opened in Tameside and has operated uninterrupted since 2011. What was a 3 month local church outreach programme has now entered its 7th year and demand continues to grow.

Families across the Tameside area are referred to the food bank by schools, social services, housing associations, health visitors and other agencies that collectively work with vulnerable families.  Despite the challenging picture nationally the volunteers at St Mary’s have come together again this year to ensure that every family that needs help, receives it.

At this time of year the scourge of loneliness can also strike, and strike hard. That’s why it’s really important that as a community we come together to make sure that no one is alone.

Considering this, I was delighted to hear that ordinary members of the community had worked with a local charity called Ambition for Ageing to host a series of afternoon tea sessions in the run up to Christmas for some of the more vulnerable and isolated members of our community. One of the first such events ran on 10 December at the Oasis Venue in Haughton Green.

It was funded and staffed by volunteers and members of the community. The event was free for people in Denton South who may not have been looking forward to Christmas, as well as those suffering with illness or caring for someone with a serious illness. There was entertainment from St John Fisher Primary School Choir and everyone left with a present to open on Christmas Day!

Even though it’s just outside of my constituency proper, St John’s Church on Vicarage Drive in Dukinfield runs an absolutely vital food bank in tandem with the Trussell Trust every Friday and Saturday. In Dane Bank too, the spirit of Christmas has taken hold with the St Georges Centre on Windmill Lane hosting a Christmas Day meal on the 25th for anyone who may be on their own this year. It’s completely free and run by volunteers.

Finally, a special mention to the Ryecroft Hall Management Committee in Audenshaw which runs a large range of activities for anything ranging to mums and tots, dance classes, to social clubs for the elderly, catering for all members of the community throughout the day and during the week.

We’d all love to see a world where food banks were not needed, or where the most vulnerable were taken care of properly. Sadly, failures by central government have meant that poverty continues to rise meaning more and more families and vulnerable people in our communities are at risk.

That’s why this year, more than any other, I’d like to thank each and every volunteer, fundraiser and community project across all of Tameside. What you do makes a massive difference to the community around us. As your MP, I will always do my utmost to defend those most vulnerable within our society and ensure that our community is a focal point for everyone.

St. Mary’s is entirely reliant on the generosity of the public, whether through donations or by those offering their time so I’d encourage everyone to consider signing up. For more information please visit www.stmaryshg.org.uk/food-bank. Likewise, if you’d like to get involved with Ambition for Ageing, please visit https://www.actiontogether.org.uk/ambition-ageing-tameside.

For more information on the work of St John’s and the Trussell Trust please visit http://tamesideeast.foodbank.org.uk.

If you know anyone who may be interested in attending St Georges Christmas Day meal, please contact Loz on 07533062877. And to find out what is running at Ryecroft Hall, please visit: http://www.ryecrofthall.co.uk/whats-on-2/

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