Martin Lee column: The true spirit of Christmas

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This last week I have seen the true spirit of Christmas come alive in Mansfield.

I was grateful to be invited to the annual Christmas lunch in Warsop organised by Age Concern and Councillor John Allin. The room was packed with everyone enjoying a great lunch, raffle and live entertainment. It was a chance for people to meet up with old friends and to make new ones. Such events are so important in fostering a community spirit and combating loneliness for some.

This is all made possible by the wonderful volunteers of Age Concern. Like so many who devote their time to charitable work throughout our district, it’s a commitment that goes on all year round.

It was great to hear about all the activities that are organised by these volunteers and to see how much this means to those who benefit. There was a real sense of social solidarity.

I also visited a scheme this week that provides valuable support to young people who are in housing need.

Framework runs a housing project at Rock Court that caters for young people who find themselves homeless for all sorts of reasons and in desperate need of accommodation and support.

What struck me most was the dedication of the staff who keep the project going and the ambition they have for the youngsters who they help.

The project not only provides a roof over the heads of these young people but also advice services that range from how to sustain a tenancy and run a home, to assistance with finding work and training.

It was a pleasure to meet a young woman who had lived at the project for several months. She clearly had experienced a very tough time, losing her job and car and finding herself homeless.

Despite these setbacks she remained optimistic about her future and the day I met her she was about to move on from Rock Court into her own flat.

She told me how valuable the support provided by Framework had been in getting her life back on track. She spoke of the friendships she had formed with other residents at Rock Court that had helped her through.

In tough times we must maintain this sort of service otherwise too many people, like the young woman I met, will be cut adrift from our community.

Mansfield, like so many towns and cities, is seeing a growth in the use of food banks. The fact that so many people have to rely on them is a scandal in the sixth richest country in the world.

The help provided to people is only possible due to the generosity of those who donate, and to the committed volunteers who organise the distribution of the food.

Merry Christmas to you all.