TUCKING into a delicious feast, unwrapping luxury gifts and spending quality time with loved ones will be how most Wirral families would spend their perfect Christmas this year.
For many people however, this will simply not be an option as they struggle to make ends meet and keep their heads above water in these tough economical times, with some even being forced to sleep rough out on the cold streets.
But it is the work of The Charles Thompson Mission in Birkenhead that lends a helping hand to those in need, providing hot meals throughout the year and collecting toys for the borough’s poorest children.
Set up in 1892 by grocer Charles Thompson, the mission aimed to ease the suffering of youngsters in poverty and donations came from local shops, businesses and individuals.
He died in 1903 aged 61, but his mission survived through his daughter, Annie, who was eventually awarded the MBE in 1953 for her services to the people of Birkenhead.
Providing food, furniture and clothes as well as dental and counselling services, the Mission is a vital lifeline to many living below the breadline.
And as the temperature drops and Government cuts take hold, its clients say they are even more grateful for the centre.
And this year it has been decided to open the Mission’s doors on Christmas Day to put on a special festive dinner.
Ronnie Smith, who regularly calls in for a full English breakfast, said he enjoyed going there.
The 67-year-old said: “I have been coming here for 10 years and I love it. It’s great that we have somewhere to go to have a delicious, hot meal and they do a fantastic job.”
And 49-year-old James Taylor said the Mission provided a place where he could be around people going through similar problems.
He said: “I drop in every now and then for a meal and I think it’s good to meet others in similar circumstances as it reassures you that you’re not the only one.”
However offering home-cooked meals and warmth are not the only things The Charles Thompson Mission offers, as each year its Food Bank campaign delivers special hampers to the borough’s most needy.
It also makes sure that as many children as possible have something to open on Christmas morning through its Toy Bank scheme.
And manager Bernie Frost said the Mission, which needs around £50,000 worth of donations to stay open each year, is always looking to reach out to those who need it most.
He said: “The Toy Bank is very close to my heart because I used to be one of those kids who didn’t have much to open on Christmas morning. I didn’t like to admit it to my school-friends so I would just say I got money even if it was only a fiver.
“I know what it’s like to live like that so we do everything we can to make sure local children are brought some joy at this time of year.
“The food hampers that we collect for are a massive success with people who simply can’t afford to get by. They meet a need because there are so many people who fall through the net and there is still poverty right on our doorstep.
“If we weren’t giving out toys and feeding these people, they would be stealing it and that is the fact of the matter.”
Bernie added: “We see some amazing success stories where people may come in desperately in need of our help and support and somehow manage to turn their lives around.
“We cannot thank the public enough for their continued support and kind donations.”
Anyone who wants to be involved and enjoy a festive treat has to let Bernie know by this Friday, December 21, for catering prurposes.