Family Business United (FBU) and Plan Insurance Brokers recently teamed up for their first Santa Dash, a mad journey around the country in a decorated Black Cab to help those in need.
This time of the year should be all about sharing, cheering and spending precious moments with loved ones. Unfortunately, for some, it is only a time to feel even lonelier, helpless and struggling with the harsh weather.
Initiated by Paul Andrews, Managing Director of the FBU, the Santa Dash aims to gather goods kindly donated by FBU members and their staff, to then redistribute them to the less fortunate. From sleeping bags to soap and Christmas crackers, here is a summary of where we visited during this whirlwind week.
South Lodge Hotel, in Lower Beeding, supplied 200 bars of soap.
Workers at nearby wine estates Ridgeview and Bolney provided a fantastic amount of outdoor clothing and warm covers.
Birketts in Chelmsford gifted a sack of hearty snacks.
7 Investment Management kindly donated 25 brand new sleeping bags and arranged for Essex County Cricketers to hand them to us at the team’s ground.
Partridges Food Market presented us with lots of tasty treats.
O’Donovan Waste Management in Tottenham donated £250 to the cause.
At funeral directors G. Seller & Co. in Leicester we picked up boxes of blankets, coats, hats and gloves donated by staff and their families.
Close by, Sturgess Motor Company arranged for hundreds of bottles of water to be ready for collection.
All of the above items were distributed to the homeless or sent to related charities to aid their efforts.
In addition to donations for the homeless, we also gathered from Perrywood Garden Centre in Tiptree, 25 pretty plants that a hospice we visited gladly received. And Reynolds Foods supplied several boxes of healthy fruit and vegetables that were passed on to deserving schools where over 70% of pupils receive assisted lunch vouchers from the government. The ingredients were used to provide the children with a nutritious Christmas dinner before they break for the festive holiday.
The week had a fantastic feel good factor. It was lovely to be part of a well-meaning initiative aimed at helping others. At the weekend we sorted through all the donations ready to take them to the homeless, separating them into boxes based on the size and sex of the recipient.
Distributing clothing to the homeless
On December 13th the Santa Dash cab and the Plan vans made their way to the London Charing Cross soup kitchen. We met with the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers (WCHCD) and their team of “Taxi Warm Clothing” volunteers on what was a cold, windy, Wednesday evening. There, a stone’s throw away from a number of the city’s fine dining restaurants and high end fashion outlets, we were greeted by dozens of London’s homeless, eager for food simply to fill their stomachs and clothing just to keep them warm.
What a truly humbling experience, it’s terrible to think that so many people, so close to us, have so little. Queues had already formed awaiting our delayed entrance, our convoy having been held up by the congestion on the capital’s roads. A festive sing along had lightened the mood on a tediously slow journey.
By contrast, in a flurry of activity, the donations were snapped up almost as soon as we removed them from the vehicles. We were left with empty boxes and mixed emotions. Glad, to have had the opportunity to lend our help, but also a sad realisation set in, that the plight of those we met will continue, all be it, with the benefit of the slight reprieve we offered.
On the drive home we directed the fan’s heat to our feet and complained about them being frozen. Someone commented that we’d only been outside for around an hour. As we made our way the heavens opened. Heavy rain bounced off the streets and the surplus that the drains couldn’t cope with formed deep, fast running rivers. The windscreen wipers could barely cope and visibility was at a minimum. The realisation that the poor souls we’d just met would be desperately seeking refuge from these bleak conditions become even starker. There were no songs on the way home, and little conversation.
At Plan we’re very grateful to all those who participated, either by donating goods, sponsoring a bauble, or contributing to the “Donate a Cuppa” campaign, that ran alongside the Santa Dash.
We are already thinking about next year, and have lots of ideas to make the Santa Dash 2018 even bigger and better. In an ideal world it would not be needed, everyone would have a roof over their head, a meal on their table, and company at Christmas.
Perhaps that’s what we should aim for……. but we’ll need your help. Hopefully you’ll be just as willing to lend us your support?