“The Bolton Family” did it!

Tony and his wife were not looking forward to Christmas. Tony had lost his job due to ill health and he had his wife and two children to provide for on benefits. The family were nominated for a Christmas Dinner on Jesus hamper and they were delighted. They said that it will be a proper Christmas for them and that they were looking forward to sharing the dinner together. The two children also received gifts from Bolton Lions and the family said that they had been truly blessed this year!

Iris has recently become alcohol dependent yet manages through her own struggles to care for her mum. When she received her Christmas Dinner on Jesus hamper she rang crying, saying that she did not think she deserved it or the kindness behind it! She was overwhelmed as was her mum. They could not stop crying…

By 3pm on Friday 22nd December 2017, 4,110 people had either received a very special Christmas Dinner or it was on the way! This meant that 2,060 adults and 2,050 children were able to enjoy a festive Christmas Day meal from the Bolton Community on behalf of Jesus involving no assistance what so ever from Santa Claus or his trusted reindeer! Just how did this ‘present day miracle’ happen?

Although a lot of thought and preparation had already gone on, it was during the summer months that pledges for items to be included in the hampers began. In total, there were over 40 agencies, schools, businesses and churches that had pledged donated items for the Christmas Dinner. Then in mid-November nominations from 108 different groups began to flood into the Urban Outreach office. A resounding comment heard around at that time was “Christmas has arrived!” From 18th December we saw an army of well over 100 wonderful volunteers pack the hampers before being delivered to the unit where the fresh bags were completed for the big distribution on the Friday. As you can imagine, an enormous challenge undertaken not only with volunteer muscle, sweat and coordination but with a smile and a willingness to do absolutely anything in order to get the Christmas Dinners ready. One volunteer commented that:

“It wasn’t just wonderful food that was being packed in to the Christmas Dinners on Jesus; it was the obvious love and real compassion that was going in there too! The atmosphere was almost tangible.”

As many will know 2017 brought the additional challenge of not having a unit where packing and distribution could take place. After much prayer, conversations and discussion, one week before the big day a brand new unit at Logistics North was miraculously made available by the joint venture between the Howarth Group PLC and the Lancashire County Pension Fund. It was an amazing ‘gift’ that went beyond our wildest dreams!

Iain Thomson, Associate Director at Howarth Group PLC said: “It is a genuine pleasure to be supporting Urban Outreach’s work. Their operation is a staggering one and showcases the best of community spirit, and we are pleased to be making a small contribution to their 2017 effort.”

Distribution Day at the unit arrived with everything and everyone ready and in place for individuals, agencies, churches and the Mayor and Mayoress to pick up and then deliver the Christmas Dinners on Jesus. This day only arrived as the result of many wonderful people from local churches, businesses, schools and the community coming together with Urban Outreach staff for one purpose: to make sure individuals and families felt cared for and thought of during the difficult time they were experiencing or had experienced in 2017.

Councillor Cliff Morris, Leader of Bolton Council said: “This is the best of Bolton coming together to help people in need.”

A volunteer involved in delivering some of the hampers said:

“It was a privilege to be an ambassador on behalf of the many people who have donated and worked so hard to bring this wonderful Christmas dinner to those in Bolton who are struggling at the moment. I wish all the volunteers could have seen the results of their tremendous hard work that I saw whilst delivering Christmas Dinner on Jesus.”

It truly was an amazing achievement to conclude 2017 in the life of our well-loved and caring family community of Bolton. Another valued volunteer who has been involved with Christmas Dinner on Jesus for a number of years said:

“There are plenty of problems in the world, including Bolton, I can do nothing at all about. But, by helping with the team in the Christmas Dinner on Jesus project, I get a strong sense of achievement and contribute towards meeting a lot of needs at a difficult time of the year. The crucial thing is being part of the team, one cog in an impressive machine that’s assembled from all over the area. Gifts and donations arrive in huge amounts. Groups from churches, schools and workplaces, and individual volunteers answer the appeal from Urban Outreach in the week before Christmas. Everyone mucks in as they are able to sort, pack and move the food items to make them ready for collection and delivery. And somehow, despite a few crises and some aching muscles, thanks to the skilful management of the leaders, everything gets done in time and all the volunteers are made to feel welcome and valuable.”

It is incredible that when we all come together, bringing our love, compassion and enthusiasm in order to bring a little hope into lives that are hurting such an incredible blessing follows. Thank you to everyone involved!

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