A Fife charity which supports those most in need through its annual Christmas appeal fears more people than ever are struggling to make ends meet this festive season.
Staff at the Cottage Family Centre in Kirkcaldy are especially busy at this time of year as they provide a lifeline to families and underprivileged children over the holidays.
The appeal, which relies entirely on the generosity of local people and businesses, sees staff hand out practical help to local communities, such as essential items, food, Christmas dinners, support paying for gas and electricity and toys for youngsters who might otherwise go without.
The number of children referred to the centre this year has soared to around 1,200 – 12 times the 100 received when the Christmas appeal first started in 2011.
Pauline Buchan, service manager, correctly feared the number of children and families needing support would rise once more, with staff preparing to deliver hundreds of parcels on Monday December 23.
“When we started it we never expected to still be having to do it nine years on, but things are actually worse now than ever before,” she said.
“Some parents are having to make a choice between heating their homes or feeding their children, never mind the added stress of buying presents, so we want to thank everyone who has contributed to our fantastic donations.”
Ms Buchan was speaking as a number of local businesses spearheaded by Mossmorran operator ExxonMobil handed over £5,000 worth of cash, toys and food to boost this year’s appeal.
Last year saw the appeal support 1,077 children and their families, and staff and volunteers are preparing to do it all again to ensure a happy Christmas in households across the area.
One local woman, Gemma Wilkie, 28, from the Templehall area of Kirkcaldy, has been going to the family centre for support for several years.
She said: “I wouldn’t be able to feed my kids if it wasn’t for the Cottage.
“The benefits that I am entitled to are not enough.
“I have to visit the Cottage three times a week just to put food on the table.
“But the Christmas appeal the Cottage put on is amazing,
“I wouldn’t even be able to afford a chicken for Christmas dinner and my kids would go without food.
“Pauline and all the staff are absolutely fantastic – they will do anything they can to help.”