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The Together At Christmas Special!

 
 

Christmas for most people is about a time to rest, relax and catch up with family and friends. But for many older adults in our community Christmas only reinforces the feeling of loneliness and isolation. The impact of being on their own without the opportunity to meet and talk to others can often be damaging both in terms of their mental, physical and emotional health.

I said when I became the Head teacher of Hove Park that I wanted it to be ‘more than just a place where students come to learn.’ I want our school to be an integral part of the community we serve.

So last year the staff at Hove Park School decided to do Christmas a different way. We wanted to make a difference to the people in our community. So we came up with the idea that we would open our school on Christmas Day and serve Christmas lunch to those that would otherwise be on their own.

Our planning started by meeting with Emily Kenward (founder and CEO of Time to Talk Befriending). Listening to her and the incredible work the charity does we knew this would be a vital source of help and support. Through Emily we were able to secure the services of a professional chef to prepare and cook the food. We then began writing and e-mailing local businesses. Within a matter of hours, we had offers to supply us with cutlery, catering equipment, tables & chairs, crackers and wine. The local business community have risen to the occasion and their generosity has been amazing.

The offers of help and support were overwhelming and shows what can be achieved when a school and community comes together. I would especially like to thank all our parents and carers for their generous donations.

Jim Roberts - Head Teacher

 
   
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It Started With Our Christmas Market

 
 

What a wonderful evening!

On 4th December Hove Park School and Time To Talk Befriending hosted a Christmas Market to raise much-needed funds for Together at Christmas. It was a delightful community evening, with plenty of festive cheer.

The total money raised was £750 and we would like to take this opportunity to thank again all those who helped organise the market, to the sellers and your amazing stalls, and the local community who came to support us and grab a bargain or two!

Emily Kenward, CEO of Time To Talk Befriending, had this to say:

"Although the feeling loneliness can affect people of all ages, at Time to Talk Befriending we witness first hand just how damaging this feeling can be. We meet amazing older people every day who have a rich life history to share, yet for the majority of our 287 scheme members, before being connected to the charity, could go for weeks or months at a time without seeing anyone. We hear things like ‘I don’t want to live anymore’ or that people feel they have ‘no purpose’. Experience also tells us that Christmas can be the most emotive and lonely time. Remembering loved ones who have passed or memories of days gone by... we therefore can’t advocate enough the need to tackle this serious life threatening issue of loneliness in older age, head on! It was amazing to see such a huge turnout at the Hove Park School Together at Christmas Event and it is a privilege to partner with the school on this and hopefully more intergenerational projects, in the future."

Head teacher, Jim Roberts, said:

"The Christmas Market was an opportunity to raise much needed money to help support our Together at Christmas event and at the same time bring our community together. As I arrived the newly formed staff band were playing and the hall was full of families, friends and students, all having a great time. It was a really lovely evening that I’m sure will become a regular fixture in the school calendar, for many years to come."

 
   
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Christmas Market Featured On Prime Time Channel 5 News

 
 

Our Christmas Market was so popular that it gained a lot of media attention. Channel 5 prime time news featured a great report promoting the market and subsequent Christmas Day charity event which can be viewed here >

 
   
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Hamper Making & Christmas Card Writing

 
 

All members of our school community contributed to our plans. Each year group provided items for the Christmas hampers, 60 in all, one for each of our guests to take home and enjoy. In addition, students were responsible for writing a Christmas card to each of our guests with the sentiment ‘Thinking of you at Christmas’

Special thanks must go to The Works, Worthing, who kindly and heavily discounted all the hamper baskets.

 
   
 

The Argus & OneFamily Award Winner

 
 

Local paper, The Argus, teamed up with Brighton financial services provider, OneFamily, and invited groups and charities to apply for £500 in the run-up to Christmas. All they had to do was explain how they would send the money to help support their local community.

We applied for this great festive give away and were one of the lucky 14 winners!

Emma Banks, head of corporate communications, at OneFamily, said:

“This is the first time we have paired up with The Argus and the interest we received was fantastic.

We had more than 75 applications, many more than we thought we would.

It took a long time to read through them all and then make the very difficult decisions.

Initially, we said we would give £6,000 from The OneFamily Foundation but we ended up giving away £7,000, and we were thrilled to do so.”

We had more than 75 applications, many more than we thought we would.

 
   
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Christmas Day - A Community Came Together

 
 

And then Christmas Day arrived!

Young and old were side-by-side for lots of laughter, company and fun at the inaugural event. School staff and volunteers were on hand to provide food, entertainment and conversation for dozens of the local community, in conjunction with the charity Time to Talk Befriending. 

The idea came from a group of staff at Hove Park and over the last few months they’ve worked hard to make it happen. An 18 year old past pupil at Hove Park said: "I've really enjoyed talking with people I otherwise would never have met. Christmas at home is nice, but it's always the same. This was a different experience for me and it felt really special to be part of the first Hove Park Together at Christmas."

Norma, aged in her sixties, thought the whole day was "absolutely wonderful. This school is doing something really marvellous for me and others like me. I could tell this school and the people who work here were amazing as soon as I walked in the door. The lovely carols sung by the staff, the fresh greenery, the lights, all the beautiful food and stimulating conversation made me feel instantly welcomed. I was a theatrical costumer so I have an eye for detail...everything was so well planned and there was so much of everything. It was obvious everyone loved being involved from their warmth and enthusiasm. I feel lucky to have been here today".

Walter, who is in his early seventies, was equally enthusiastic. " I've had a fantastic day. Not only did I hear lovely music (which took me back to my days in the school choir!), I had a huge meal with the added bonus of a sprout-eating competition with Julie, who also provided outstanding waitress service at my table. Not only did I get a really nice raffle prize, I'm also going home with a hamper full of things I really need and like. Everyone got an equally large hamper. I'm quite overwhelmed...I would have been on my own today otherwise and it would have just have been an ordinary day. Hove Park School has made my day extraordinary and I can't thank them enough for their kindness and generosity".

Head teacher Jim Roberts is clear that the school should be centre to the wider community they serve:

"A community is about looking out for each other and looking after each other. Our Together at Christmas event was about supporting members of our community that would otherwise have been on their own. Students and staff have come together and worked incredibly hard over the last few months to make this happen. I also need to recognise the contribution local businesses have made. They recognised the value and importance of what we were trying to achieve and were incredible in their generosity and kindness."

We are already looking forward to ensuring this remains an important fixture in our schools calendar for years to come.

Head of Languages at Hove Park, Mr Sandford, had this to say:

"It was a very moving experience seeing so many faces I recognised from the local community coming together and being welcomed into our school. I have never sung so many Christmas songs in one day and it was lovely that the choir we formed were able to do requests for our visitors. The effort made by everyone made me very proud of our school."

Hollie Greener, volunteer, summed up the day perfectly:

"Well Christmas this year was pretty different from any other I’ve had, but volunteering for Time to Talk was an amazing experience and one I’m so glad I put part in. If I wasn’t spending my time with people who would otherwise spend Christmas alone, I would have only eaten too much, drank too much, and slept too much. The time I took out of my usual Christmas made such a huge different to some absolute diamonds today. This time of year is really difficult for lots of people, it was so special to be part of what would have been a lonely day, a much happier day for all invited. Let’s spend this time of year enjoying the company of our loved ones we are lucky enough to have."

 
   
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Special thanks to our local community for supporting us

 
 

Special thanks must go to all the local companies and charities that supported our Together at Christmas event:

Time to Talk Befreinding

TJ's Branding Solutions

B&Q Lewes Road

Hardings Catering Ltd

HireAll

Coordination Hire

JD Fears

Tescos Church Road Hove

Waitrose Nevill Road Hove

The Works, Worthing

 
   
 
 
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