On a mission to spread festivities

Wirral Globe: Pictured is Bernie with some of the donations. Picture: Paul Heaps Pictured is Bernie with some of the donations. Picture: Paul Heaps

WHILE most of us look forward to all that comes with Christmas time, those less fortunate may not have the luxuries we so often take for granted.

As hard times continue to hit those most vulnerable, many Wirral people will struggle to make ends meet and while so many of us prepare to tuck into a delicious feast, unwrap our presents and spend time with our loved ones, so many will be forced to sleep rough.

One Birkenhead organisation is hoping give those in need a helping hand at what should be a time for giving and a time for sharing.

The Charles Thompson Mission opens its doors to more than 70 people five days a week, offering them hot meals and a chance to escape the poverty they have come so accustom to.

Set up in 1892 by grocer Charles Thompson, the Mission – on Hemingford Street – aimed to ease the suffering of youngsters in poverty and donations came from local shops, businesses and individuals.

Although Mr Thompson died in 1903, his goals lived on through his daughter, Annie – who was awarded the MBE in 1953 for her services to the people of Birkenhead.

Now, the Mission is run by Bernie Frost, a kind-hearted soul who first got involved more than 10 years ago as a volunteer.

Providing food, furniture, clothes, healthcare, counselling services and even toys for the borough’s poorest children, Bernie is proud to be a part of something so vital for many living below the breadline.

"In an ideal world we wouldn’t have to do this, people wouldn’t have to come here because this shouldn’t be happening but it is.

"It's a privilege to be involved and to be a part of the Mission and to help these people.

"We are seeing more and more people who, five years ago, would never have needed to come here, but now they are struggling.

"We have seen the recession really bite this year."

Schools and churches donate what Bernie describes as the Mission’s ‘base’ food stock each Harvest but the rest of the year, it relies on generous donations from the public.

Bernie added: “I just want to say a massive, big big thank you to all the people that have supported us.

"There are too many to name – it is really overwhelming the support we get from the people of Birkenhead and Wirral.

“Our motto is helping people out of poverty and that’s what we want to do – we don’t want them to stay like this, we want them to be able to help and manage themselves and we offer them the help, the support and the advice to get out of poverty.

"Anyone can just walk through the doors – you don’t have to be homeless.

"It isn't means tested, if you need a hot meal, you’re welcome."

Opening its doors yet again on Christmas Day, the Mission will put on a special festive dinner, complete with all the trimmings and through its Toy Bank scheme, it will ensure that as many children as possible have something to open on Christmas morning.

Kevan Davies, who has been visiting the Mission for more than 15 years, said he owed the Mission a lot.

The 47-year-old said: “If it wasn’t for the likes of this place, I would have been dead a long time ago. “They do a great job and I can home in here and if there’s anything I need, I just ask and they get it. “They’ll get you a hot meal, clean clothes – I look forward to coming here.”

Sean Lavery visits the Mission on a regular basis in the hope of encouraging those who use it to engage with some of the organisations that can help get them back on their feet.

The 28-year-old also owes a lot to the Mission after it helped him during a period of addiction.

He said: "I have been sober for two and a half years now but when I was in the depths of addiction, this place kept me alive – they couldn’t do enough for me.

"There shouldn’t be places like this but they are huge for the community."

Volunteers have already been found for this year’s festive period but anyone who would like to get involved or find out more about the Mission and its work, can visit ctmission.org

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