A STRETFORD mother has started a Secret Santa campaign for elderly members of the community this Christmas to help combat loneliness.

After a 'heart-breaking' meeting with a gentleman who told her 'he wished he wasn't here for Christmas' because he had no family and friends, Jessica Nicholas, aged 26 decided she had to do something to help older people who may be spending Christmas alone. She reached out over Facebook in hopes of creating a Secret Santa campaign in order to 'bring some Christmas joy to their lives.'

She said: "What really breaks my heart is the elderly people I have come across who are lonely especially for Christmas. One gentleman I met had no friends or family and wished he wasn't here for Christmas. Said he would be better off "in a hole" in his words. I invited him for Christmas dinner or suggested a church or organisation to attend. He declined.

"I came away heartbroken and really thought how could I make a difference. As most won't ask for help. I can't change the issue of social funding for independent living. But I'd like to put a smile and bring some Christmas joy to their lives. Giving them hope they are not alone. By doing secret Santa gifts for them. As some may not even receive a single gift. I do believe they are the people of the community who are forgotten about. Yet the most vulnerable."

After spotting the campaign on Facebook Alpa Ghelani, of Alphabet Pharmacy in Stretford, stepped in to offer support by arranging several drop off points for donations and arranging to help distribute the gifts once they have been packaged.

The pair hope that Jessica's project will spread some Christmas cheer to some of the estimated two million elderly people who live alone. So, as well as donations, they ask for people to get in touch and recommend neighbours, loved ones or members of the community who are alone this Christmas and may benefit from receiving a gift.

Jessica is asking for donations of items that can be made into Christmas gifts, such as chocolate; biscuits; coffee and teabags; scarves, hats and gloves; books; colouring books and pencil crayons; puzzle books and crossword books, and is also asking for volunteers to help them package the donations on Tuesday December 19.

She said: "The support has been overwhelming - I didn't expect it at all. People have already donated a lot but more people are offering to help pack and distribute them but for people to help we need more donations.

"I think more than anything doing this has raised awareness - if I hadn't have come across that man that day, I probably wouldn't have thought of this."

Jessica hopes that next year with more time and planning they will be able to make the campaign even bigger,

The deadline for donations is Monday December 18, and items can be dropped off at the following locations:

Alphabet Pharmacy

222 Derbyshire Lane West, Stretford , Manchester, M32 9LD.

Cheeky Cherubs

Unit 1 Victoria Parade, Higher Road, Urmston, Manchester, M41 9BP.

Anytime Fitness

10/10A Flixton Road, Urmston, M41 5AS.


222 Derbyshire Lane W, Stretford, Manchester M32 9LD.