For many, it’s usually the most wonderful time of the year, but for others, even in a year without COVID-19, it can be the most difficult time of the year. For everyone Christmas was different this year. However, across the length and breadth of the country, EFL Clubs and their Community Organisations (CCOs) were busy making sure people in their communities had the best possible Christmas that they could.
An incredible amount of activity took place over the festive period; Clubs connected with isolated people in their community – even visiting them on Christmas Day. They also provided 1,000’s of presents for children who had little or nothing to look forward to. Food was delivered for those who could have gone hungry, including Christmas dinners. Christmas cards with special messages were written from the young to the old. Thanks to their Football Club, many thousands of people were helped this Christmas.
Here are just some of the fantastic activities that went on in our EFL Communities, many of which continue on into the New Year:
Blackpool FC Community Trust completed a Christmas fundraising challenge, which saw fans, the community, businesses, first team players and staff raise an amazing £41,311.
Club owner Simon Sadler, his family and Segantti Capital Management partners and staff have matched this achievement, meaning an unbelievable £82,622 was raised to help local children. The funds went towards providing close to 2000 gifts for children that would otherwise have very little.
Blackpool’s team worked with a number of companies and travelled to Birmingham, Manchester and local stores to collect all the gifts. The Community Trust team had the unenviable task of wrapping almost 2000 boxes for the children all in BFC branded paper to make sure the gifts were as special as possible. The gifts were delivered to schools, in time for parents to collect them.
The Trust staff also volunteered to visit some of their most at risk and isolated participants on Christmas Day. You can read the full story here.
Derby County knew that the festive period was going to be difficult and in many instances challenging, for their communities. To remedy some of that, several projects were set up.
County worked with the local authority to supply, prepare and deliver over 500 three course meals to those who were isolated, including to those on our ‘Tackling Loneliness Together’ project. Their current trainees assisted the delivery of these meals along with gift hampers provided by a local business.
Rams fans and participants on the Trust’s programme also nominated those who had made a difference to their lives across the pandemic and sent out ‘Christmas Community Cracker’ gifts to say thank you for their efforts.
Pride Park Stadium, which has been acting as a food donation hub, saw record levels of donations to support those in need. Care packages were distributed across the Trust’s health projects and Christmas themed events were run virtually across the schools network to keep the festive feeling going!
AFC Bournemouth Community Trust hosted their ‘Care South’ Christmas afternoon tea. The annual event was hosted slightly differently to normal, as it was running virtually. During the event, videos and songs were played to get everyone singing and dancing in their homes and player ambassador Jack Simpson got involved in the fun.
Bradford City recorded short question-and-answer sessions with their players to provide entertainment for local schoolchildren who had sent in questions.
On Saturday December 19, City’s home match against Cambridge United was dedicated to Bradford Hospitals’ Charity and the work they do for youngsters over the Christmas period. It was a show of support for the hard work done by the NHS throughout 2020. This filled the void of players being unable to visit Bradford hospitals and deliver Christmas gifts due to COVID-19, and activities included the club sponsoring a Christmas snowflake, warming up in BHC t-shirts, and purchasing gifts for poorly children off BHC’s Amazon Wishlist – each member of the first-team squad contributed to this.
After the match, a box of 23 retro Bradford City football shirts were donated to Centrepoint, as part of this year’s Shirt Appeal, which aimed to care for homeless people across the Bradford district. The month then concluded with the delivery of 1,500 food parcels to disadvantaged youngsters across the Bradford district. Additionally 150 meals were delivered to doorsteps across Bradford every day from Monday December 21 to Friday January 1 – including a Christmas-dinner on December 25.
During December, Charlton Athletic continued to support the local community with food parcels. A week before Christmas, Charlton’s new owner, Thomas Sandgaard, donated 50 Charlton Shirts to CACT’s Downs Syndrome team, 50 shirts to Bexley Council for their “kids in care” project and 50 shirts to Greenwich Council for the children receiving food hampers.
15 of CACT’s health team have also been trained to do COVID-19 lateral flow testing. CACT is now responsible for the staffing of 2 test centres in the Greenwich Borough.
Members of Hull City’s Tigers Trust team worked in partnership with ‘Aim Higher’, a local Hull based charity that empowers families facing autism, mental health and education barriers. The Tigers Trust team helped deliver Christmas Eve boxes filled with specially selected items that would help entertain the children throughout the festive period. They packaged and delivered over 80 boxes to families in Hull and East Riding to make their Christmas’ special. One father commented that it was the first proper smile he’d seen from his daughter in over a month.
Peterborough United have supported local families and those most vulnerable in delivering food parcels to help ensure people in the community didn’t go hungry this Christmas. The Posh have reached 370 local residents. United have also been delivering food packages on behalf of Millfield Community Fridge, a local charity food bank, to vulnerable local residents.
The Posh are also working closely with Disability Peterborough and Caring Together to support getting those that need transport to and from vaccination appointments.
Colchester United Football in the Community have continued to service the needs of their community throughout the Christmas Period. United holiday provision programmes provided activities free of charge as well as healthy food for those on free school meals. These activities provided over 200 meals from the 21st – 24th December.
During December the Community Trust helped out at one of the Carlisle Community Help Affordable Food Hubs. Trust staff organised food supplies to be brought to the hub, stocked and packed for individual requirements and delivered them to vulnerable people.
During the festive period, Wigan Athletic Community Trust made a real difference to those who may be at risk of loneliness and social isolation during Christmas. Thanks to the generous donations from Wigan Athletic supporters and players, over 300 Christmas support packages brought some festive cheer to local residents, care homes and patients at the local hospital during what could have been a difficult time for them. Packages contained Christmas gifts and also letters and cards from local primary school children. The deliveries were supported by Latics first team players and staff, who donated to the appeal and also dropped the packages off to a number of residents. This was on top of donating and delivering presents to 100 local children at Hope School, the local hospital’s children’s ward and youngsters attending holiday camps at Wigan Youth Zone, where they also enjoyed sports activities and a free lunch.
Queens Park Rangers
Throughout the most unusual Christmas and New Year Periods, QPR in the Community once again remained at the forefront of their local community, ensuring that everyone in the west London area received some festive cheer and remained connected throughout these unprecedented times.
After partnering with Tesco prior to Christmas, club ambassador Andy Sinton and staff from the Trust were able to deliver over 100 Christmas hampers to members of the club’s Extra Time group. The group includes some of the most vulnerable people in the west London area, many of whom were alone this Christmas.
Throughout the festive season, the Trust’s safeguarding team have been in regular contact with people from all over the world through the ‘R’ You OK?’ campaign which ensures those who are struggling during this tough time will always have someone to speak too.
Swindon Town delivered festive packages to isolated people as part of the Tackling Loneliness Together programme. These 100 Christmas packages, contained food essentials, Christmas treats such as Christmas pudding and mince pies, boxes of chocolates, a mug, books, a bag of gifts such as socks, baseball caps, drinks bottles and more. These were hand delivered across Swindon and Wiltshire to the delight of the participants. This also afforded us another chance to catch up with the participants in person before Christmas and New Year.
The community trust also delivered free Holiday Camps targeted at schools in areas of depravation, with support from the Premier League. The courses included transport to and from the venue and also provided lunch.
Port Vale Foundation have continued with their food package deliveries and over the festive period hand delivered over 15,000 meals to families across Stoke-on-Trent. They also launched a 2020 Christmas Appeal which saw hundreds of presents delivered to those who weren’t going to have anything to open on Christmas Day.
Vale’s ‘Cards for Vera’ campaign captured the imagination of school children (and some of their adults!) as the Foundation asked people to help us to put a smile on 90 year old Vale Fan Vera’s face. Until she became a part of Port Vales’s friendship calls and garden visits, she hadn’t seen anyone for over 8 months.
As part of Luton Town’s #tacklinglonelinesstogether project, the Club teamed up with local schools to encourage over 1,000 pupils to produce festive cards that were distributed to older supporters and vulnerable adults living alone or having to self-isolate in Luton. The children designed the front cover and wrote a greeting inside the card along with a poem or short story.
Kevin Thorburn, from Luton Town Community Trust, commented, “Some of the messages created are so heart-warming that they bring a tear to the eye – kids are so perceptive when it comes to topics like loneliness and vulnerability, whereas often adults can often turn a blind eye as ‘we’re all too busy’! The aim of 1,000 festive cards from 1,000 kids was to ensure that for people of all ages and backgrounds, staying at home does not lead to loneliness and by linking the youngest with the oldest members of our community we’ve made some impact and brought a smile or two to some lonely faces.”
Local resident, Pat Pueschal contacted the community team’s office to let us know,
“Today I received a lovely hand-made Christmas card. This was a delightful surprise and I am extremely pleased with it. It has been made by Olivia and it has pride of place on my mantelpiece.”
In the build up to Christmas, Bolton Wanderers helped to support the most vulnerable members of their community through a number of initiatives. As part of the Tackling Loneliness Together project they carried on phone calls, garden gate visits and 1-1 walks to those aged 70 and above, whilst over 100 Christmas cards and wellbeing booklets were delivered to their older season ticket holders. Wanderers also delivered 3 days of holiday activity and food camps for vulnerable children as part in partnership with the Premier League and Bolton Council. Staff from the Community Trust also volunteered their time at Bolton’s Humanitarian Hub helping to pack and load Christmas hampers to those most in need over the Christmas period.
Forest Green Rovers
Forest Green Rovers were very active during December. Rovers boosted the ‘Kids Stuff’ Christmas Appeal with Stroud District Foodbank, with gifts from their Academy which reached over 500 children. They supported @Play_Glos’s ‘Christmas Bags of Play’ by donating over 200 children’s football shirts, shorts, 500 newsletters and Christmas cards. Over 2,500 Green Devil magazines were distributed to 70 local schools and a further 300 were delivered to sheltered accommodation and care homes. Rovers also sent over 500 Christmas cards/letters from our FGR Community Ambassadors to participants of our Tackling Loneliness Together project.
Northampton Town FC Community Trust has been reaching out to numerous members of the public over the age of 70 who are lonely and feeling isolated. Club players and management joined in with the effort with Manager Keith Curle, Assistant Manager Colin West and players Nicky Adams, Sam Hoskins, Ricky Holmes, Ryan Watson and Danny Rose making personal calls to isolated supporters. The calls went down brilliantly, with players and management spending 10-20 minutes on the phone with each person they called. The Northampton Town FC Community Trust staff have been calling those who are vulnerable and isolated since the beginning of the pandemic in March. This work has continued and the Community Trust staff even spent some of their Christmas Day making calls to those who may have been spending that time alone.
The Christmas period was definitely the time for giving for Cambridge United Community Trust. As an early Christmas present, United donated 120 sets of kits (in total worth £5,400) to 12 schools in their local community to thank them for their support throughout the difficult year
United also wanted to ensure that local seniors in their community were keeping healthy, engaged and connected. As well as ringing round all of the football club’s senior season ticket holders, they dropped off Christmas presents including Cambridge United calendars, scarves and activity packs to those who have been taking part in their Forever United activities (as part of the Tackling Loneliness Together initiative).
The U’s mascot Marvin the Moose also made a special visit to The Gretton School for a special visit to our Every Player Counts disability football session participants.
Preston North End
Preston North End Community and Education Trust [PNECET] supported the elderly and most vulnerable members of the Preston community by delivering 600 essential food hampers throughout December, as part of the Helping Hampers campaign. Hampers, which also contained seasonal and festive materials, were delivered to identified vulnerable people, primary school children who usually receive free meals, those accessing the Tackling Loneliness Together programme and PNECET programme members. Some hampers were even delivered by Preston City Councillors.
PNECET also worked alongside the Here for Humanity group, ensuring 100 Hampers went out on Christmas day, accompanied by cooked Christmas dinners. NCS participants packed and boxed the hampers, and also wrapped Christmas presents that were gifted to young carers from across Preston, who would otherwise receive little at Christmas time.
Tackling Loneliness Together provision continued with friendly phone calls and garden gate visits made to season ticket holders, while 20 young people who normally receive free school meals were further supported by the Happy Holiday Club provision, which saw those identified vulnerable young people receive nutritious free lunches and physical activity sessions from PNECET. Find out more here.