Churches in Bicester have come together to support a special Christmas toy shop at the local Food Bank, providing brand new gifts for more than 250 local children living in poverty this Christmas.
Families with children who use the Bicester Food Bank are given a voucher entitling parents to come along to the toy shop and choose from a range of brand new toys, games and stocking fillers to give to their children for Christmas. Primary schools and other community-based initiatives in the area have also handed out vouchers to families to help reach as many people as possible in need.
Local people from across the town, a mix of Christians and non-churchgoers, have generously donated new toys, money and their volunteering time to support the initiative.
The toy shop has been open every weekday afternoon, after the morning Food Bank in the town centre, as well as on Saturday morning and one weekday evening to cater for those who are living in in-work poverty.
A difficult choice
Heading up the project, Dr Jane Clements, from St Edburg’s Church, Bicester, said:
“Oxfordshire is a deceptive place, there is lots of wealth but also many pockets of poverty. The majority of the families we are working with in Bicester have been using the Food Bank for the first time in the past two years highlighting just how much of an impact the pandemic has had."
“We know that gifts are a very important part of Christmas for children as well as the pleasure for parents when giving gifts to their children and sharing their joy and excitement. So, I wanted to make sure that parents didn’t have to make that difficult choice between buying presents or buying food for their families at Christmas.
“I also felt that it was really important that parents could come along in their own time, choose the gifts themselves and fill up a bag in a shop setting to make it feel as much as possible like the real thing. Families are also invited to join Christmas services at the different churches in Bicester, and we hope that they feel that they are part of the church family in the community.”
Members of St Edburg’s Church are involved in running Bicester Christian Action, an ecumenical charity that oversees a number of projects tackling social issues in the community, including the Food Bank.
Jane Clements spoke to BBC Radio Oxford about the Toy shop in December, listen here:
Addressing poverty and inequality is one of the five key focus areas of our diocesan common vision for a more Christ-like Church. St Edburg’s is just one of the hundreds of churches across the Thames Valley identifying the needs of their communities and stepping in to support local people.
In November, the diocese published a report telling the story of poverty and inequality in a wide range of community and church contexts across the Thames Valley region.