It is that time of year again. The lights have started to pop up around the country, parties are being organised and decorations are being dug out from the back of cupboards.

Last year, we experienced a Christmas like no other. Lockdown restrictions separated families, the vaccine rollout had only just started, and we had to adjust to much more muted festive celebrations. This year, I think we can all be forgiven for being especially excited for the festive period. I can’t wait to spend time with family and friends, eat my body weight in turkey and sample all the fantastic local events taking place across Denton and Reddish.

It’s important to remember, however, that Christmas can be a tough time for some.

That’s why I’ve been so pleased to see local communities and volunteers across Tameside rally together to help those who need it most.

Action Together have launched their annual ‘Tameside Toy Appeal’ – a fantastic initiative that collects and distributes new toys for children facing a difficult Christmas.

Last year, the generosity of Tameside residents smashed the previous donation record, and I hope we can smash it all over again this year.

The campaign is particularly in need of gifts suitable for teenagers – such as board games, toiletries, and books.

I’m also extremely grateful to the community groups and charities running food banks over the festive period. St Mary’s Church in Haughton Green and the Trussell Trust Foodbank at St John’s Church on Dukinfield are just some of the brilliant food banks collecting and distributing food to individuals and families in desperate need of support.

Tameside Council has a great list on their website of all the local food banks alongside their collection times.

I would strongly encourage residents who are able to, to donate to these very worthy causes, it really does make a world of difference.

Ultimately, Christmas is all about community. It’s about checking in on neighbours and supporting those around us.

These things matter all year around, but they are particularly powerful over the Christmas period. We have all faced an extraordinarily difficulty 18 months, and now more than ever we need to spread some joy.

So, stay safe and enjoy a festive period that can only be an improvement on last year’s surreal experience.

But let’s not forget to spread some Christmas cheer to the local community along the way.

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