Lonely this Christmas? Not if a Bristol charity has anything to do with it…
It is a heart rending thought - an elderly person all alone on Christmas day, no friends or family to share it with, no presents or treats and no Christmas meal.
According to the latest statistics, almost a million people aged 60 and over will feel lonely this Christmas time.
That's why all 11 of the Wards Solicitors' local offices have thrown themselves into fundraising for Marmalade Trust, a Bristol charity launched three years ago to tackle loneliness and social isolation among the older members of our society at this emotive time of year.
Every Christmas Day, volunteers from Marmalade Trust take people from Bristol and South Gloucestershire, who would otherwise be on their own, out for a Christmas meal.
Entirely staffed by volunteers and funded solely by donations, the lunches are hosted at local pubs and restaurants and Wards Solicitors' staff have been busy making and baking to boost this year's total.
Solicitor Rebecca Purchase, who works with the Wills and Mental Capacity Team in Wards Solicitors' Nailsea office, has been co-ordinating the fundraising.
A real difference
"Marmalade Trust is a great charity to support as it not only allows us to help people celebrate Christmas but it also brings us closer as a firm knowing that we are doing something which makes a real difference," she says.
"All our offices have been involved in charity cake sales, some offices have made and sold Christmas decorations, some have cooked up chutneys and jams and others have made bacon sandwiches and held dress-down days. Everyone has really got behind the charity and made a real effort which has been a joy to see.
"We are delighted with the total we have raised - over £800 with more money still due to come in."
Not just for Christmas
Rebecca feels the Marmalade Trust is a particularly apt charity for Wards Solicitors' to support because, sadly, as a solicitor, she often meets older clients who do not have family and spend long periods alone, not just at Christmas.
"In our line of work we meet people every day who are isolated and lonely," she says. "In the past I have tried to help them by looking for local charities which provide befriending services or social groups which meet regularly but have to admit, I always struggled to find anything suitable.
"When I came across Marmalade Trust I knew it was perfect in that it not only offers somewhere for people to go on Christmas Day, which can undoubtedly be the loneliest day of the year for some, but it is a charity which also provides year round support, pairing people up with a buddy and helping find activities and groups for them to attend regularly.
"It is a charity we have been able to refer clients to and we have seen first-hand the difference it has made to people's lives."
The charity was started by occupational therapist, Amy Perrin, who in 2013, decided to take 18 older, socially isolated people out for lunch on Christmas Day.
Word spread and in 2014, after fundraising and recruiting more volunteers, the number able to enjoy a meal out, thanks to the charity, rose to 40.
And last year, the charity expanded further into the community, and held a Christmas day lunch in three locations across the city. With the support of guests and volunteers in each local area, 60 people, including some younger people with disabilities, were able to benefit.
This year, it is hoped that 86 guests will be able to join in the celebrations.