Tag Archives: St Mungo’s

Small charitable act #5 – buy a Christmas present from St Mungos

You may remember last year I had a bad jumpers Christmas party to raise money and do a collection for St Mungos and afterwards we drove to their city hostel and they are just bloody brilliant – they totally care about their residents (who apparently would have been especially delighted with the razors we brought) and provide food and warmth and shelter and human contact and kindness and love. And lets face it, Christmas is a fairly melancholic time for most of us, so just imagine what it’s like when you’re cold and lonely and don’t even get to argue about watching the Eastenders Christmas Special.

Someone very close to me once ended up in a homeless hostel and believe me it can happen to anyone – people with sadness they can’t handle and addictions, who break up from relationships, who lose their job and get into debt and can’t get out of the downward spiral. I know I always say this but they don’t just need food and water, they need conversations and kindness. And St Mungos understands this which is why I love them.

You can donate money to their Christmas appeal to help the homeless over Christmas or you can buy a gift from their Christmas shop – I like the bird box above. Or you can buy someone a donation gift to show that you’ve paid money on their behalf to help residents make phone calls (that photo of the guy on the phone KILLS ME), provide lunch for two weeks etc – although lets face it, I don’t know many people that would be thrilled with a present saying you’ve donated money on their behalf, so maybe buy them something else too. Or you can always go to their carol concert. But just please do something 🙂

Give a little – busy Londoners guide

As you know, The Happiness Project London believes that as well as making the most out of your time doing fun stuff; to be truly happy, you should fit in some time to help others.  This is especially important given that more and more of us are unhappy nowadays as highlighted by this recent Sunday Times article

But let’s be realistic – we work long hours; book our evenings and weekends up weeks in advance to see friends and partners; and with our remaining free time we try to squeeze in yoga classes, gym sessions, shopping, calling mum. 

However, New Year is about making changes to your life and these can be as small as you like to fit in with your busy lifestyles.  The Evening Standard recently published an artice called “Let’s eat, drink, shop – and give to others“, where it encouraged people to think of others over Christmas and quoted the Archbishop of Westminster’s recent sermon where he said that “real happiness comes from family, friends and community, not status and things.”  

I’m in no position to be preachy (and, having recently hit the sales pretty hard, I know that there is some happiness that comes from “things”), but The Happiness Project London is trying to help the wider community as part of my Rules, and I have therefore come up with some simple, easy ways to help:

1. Unwanted Christmas presents


An embroidered tissue box holder?  Thanks!

You can of course give away on Freecyle or Gumtree, or sell on ebay (for charity if you like), but I’ve found these to can take time and effort, and you often have no idea who you are giving stuff to.

  • So, take random gifts to your local charity shop – they’ll be very pleased to get them. 
  • Toiletries (especially dentist stuff, shower gels, shampoos and razors) would be really helpful to homeless shelters (see St Mungos or the Waterloo Christian Mission) or other charities where people pop in to get shelter (for example The Refugee Council). 
  • Many charities including homeless hostels and shelters for victims of domestic violence and refugees, including The Refugee Council, would love clothes, shoes, toys, colouring pens, etc too – just call first to check that they have room as some have more than they need already. 
2. Donate old furniture
Emmaus and other organisations including Mencap, Trinity Homeless, Salvation Army, Homestore Tower Hamlets and Furniture Aid South Thames will come and pick up your old furniture and electricals for free and donate to charities or people who need it. 

An Evening Standard article on this received a lot of negative comments that this was harder than it sounded, but the alternatives aren’t great.  You can sell on ebay, but I’ve had problems lately with moaning buyers.  The council always takes a while to pick your stuff up, and you might get in trouble for leaving it out in the street.  You also might not want to go through the hassle of giving stuff away on gumtree or freecycle (Londonders can be strangely picky when enquiring about free items).

3. It’s not fundraising, its handraising – www.ihave.org.uk
I LOVE the premise of this new Edinburgh-based website.  ihave.org.uk asked charities what they need and the answers are refreshingly specific and simple – a spare amp, children’s books, volunteer drivers, advertising space, digital cameras, pet food, white boards, blood.
You can give as little as you like, as often as you like, which means it can be fitted into your busy lifestyle.  I can’t be the only one that has hordes of stuff gathering dust that I’d be happy to donate – old cameras, frizbees, plant pots, photo frames, paint….  It is currently Scotland-centric but they are hoping to expand – hopefully it will get to London soon.

“Bad Jumper” Christmas party to help St Mungo’s “Winter Warmer” campaign

As I suspected, The Happiness Project London has become rather one-sided.  Its been far easier to go out to nice restaurants than do anything for charity.  Life is so busy in London that its been hard to find time, but I’ve also been putting it off in favour of nights out suggested by friends.  However, the second and critically important premise of The Happiness Project London is that life becomes empty when we only live for ourselves, so I’ve wanted to kick start the charitable side sooner rather than later.

So I was inspired by St Mungo’s “Winter Warmer” campaign which aims to raise funds for the homeless especially at this time of year, by encouraging people to hold fundraising events around the theme of “keeping warm”.   This is something close to my heart as I’ve always found Christmas to be a rather melancholic time and I also have personal experience of how homeless hostels have helped people close to me, so I decided to do what I could to help.

Adapting that theme somewhat, The Grump (our new name for “my boyfriend” until we come up with something better) and I have decided to hold a “bad jumpers” Christmas party for all our friends.   I found some inspiration below – “the Giles” and “his and hers” being particular favourites.  

As well as having the final catch up before we all part ways for family Christmases – and drinking our body weight in mulled wine – I’m asking my friends to donate money to the St Mungo’s campaign and also to bring along any spare blankets, toiletries and clothing, which The Grump and I will take to our nearest emergency shelter in Southwark the day after, notwithstanding fuzzy heads. 

I can’t think of anything better in London than spending an evening with your closest friends all dressed in terrible jumpers, knowing that you’re doing what you can for someone else, and you might just make another person’s day.  If you can, I’d encourage you to do the same – contact St Mungo’s through the links page to set up your own event. 

UPDATE: We called the St Mungos emergency shelter in Southwark and the local shelter in Battersea and both were full up with clothes and couldn’t store any more. BUT they were very keen for toiletries. So, we dropped off the toiletries at the Southwark shelter and are due to deliver the clothes to the Christian Mission shelter in Southwark (as suggested by the St Mungos emergency shelter). We also donated money to St Mungos. So, its a good idea to ring up shelters first to check if they can store/circulate your items before you rock up.