One can scarcely think of Christmas in Canterbury without thinking of the Lord Mayor of Canterbury’s Christmas Gift Fund. This Charity was set up in 1952 by members of the business community, who approached the then Mayor, suggesting that they might launch an appeal to give parcels to the elderly and needy at Christmas time. In that first year the appeal raised between £200 and £300.

This year the Christmas Gift Fund Committee aims to raise £17,000 in the two months before Christmas. A major part of our income comes from regular contributors, some of whom are individuals, some of whom are local businesses, schools, clubs or organisations. Each parcel is now valued at approx. £30 and this year we shall provide 500 grocery parcels in Canterbury and the surrounding villages, each containing a greeting from the Lord Mayor - Beneficiaries are the elderly, the lonely and to those in need (of any age). Many of the recipients this year will be families with particular needs and we plan to give toy vouchers to the younger children.

WE URGE EVERYONE TO BE AS GENEROUS AS THEY CAN BE, confident that all monies raised will be put to very good use in our local community.

The Committee

While the public only gets to know about the Fund at Christmas time, there is considerable planning to be done in the preceding months. Names of former recipients have to be checked and new names collected, so that there is an initial working list. Recommendations come to the Committee from local organisations, (health centres, doctors’ surgeries, nurses, Social Services, clergy, schools etc.) of those eligible to receive gifts and the parcels have to be ordered well in advance, packed — and paid for!

The Committee has always felt that, although the gift is important, the major success of the Gift Fund lies in the fact that parcels are delivered personally by our network of volunteers. (Local Community Service Organisations and Senior School pupils often assist in this task). For the elderly, particularly, it is very special, that at this time of goodwill, somebody has thought of them and they really appreciate the visit and the good wishes expressed by the caller, along with the Christmas greetings from the Lord Mayor enclosed within the parcel. The Christmas Gift Fund tries to get to the heart of real loneliness and do something about the problem at a time of year when it is all too easy for the lonely to be overlooked. Nowadays too we offer toy gift vouchers to some families with very young children facing particular hardships.

The small Christmas Gift Fund Committee (made up of only 12 volunteers, each with a specific role to play, plus the Lord Mayor) is really proud that it can work on such a personal basis, with the committed help of so many local organisations. The efforts in administering the Charity are considerable, but equally the rewards are only too evident in seeing the many hundreds of letters from those who have received a visit and a parcel "from the Lord Mayor". It is clear that these gifts can make an enormous difference between a happy or a sad miserable and despairing Christmas.

The Committee is ever-evolving and looks forward to adding many more years to its history, confident that the work we do is of benefit to our community, directly as a result of the efforts and generosity of so many local people. This is a local charity run by local people for the benefit of local people - and we rely heavily on local people for support.