Can you spare a few hours on Tuesday and Wednesday this week to have fun in the kitchen and help some of the people in greatest need this Christmas?
If the answer is ‘yes’ then read on – now is your chance to join me in providing hot food to rough sleepers and vulnerable people and sending a message of hope to society after one of the cruellest years.
I have joined forces with community volunteers, my colleagues and local businesses to provide free meals during the Christmas Week to elderly, lonely and homeless people in Waterloo, Vauxhall and wider Lambeth area as well as West Bromwich in West Midlands.
These are two of the parts of the country closest to my heart so I feel it is my duty to give something back to the community.
You know all too well the challenges we have faced this year – from coronavirus and the recession to tumbling temperatures.
Now, to be honest, we all face considerable uncertainty as to what 2021 holds for our health, our family and our household finances, as well as the wider economy.
So by making this small sacrifice of time, money and produce to create hot meals and provide food parcels for food banks we can show our solidarity to those who need it.
Over the last few days more and more residents and businesses have signed up to take part. They will work alongside Lord Charlie Falconer, Lord Michael Cashman, Mary Foy MP and many others in this Christmas community effort.
Local businesses in south London and the West Midlands have agreed to support our efforts to prepare and cook the hot meals at this coldest of times.
Volunteers will deliver the food to the homes of people living in poverty and invite rough sleepers to come to selected local businesses to collect it themselves.
All the ingredients will come from donations or simply be purchased at cost price from participating companies.
We are hoping to provide more than 2,000 hot meals and we have already raised the most of the funds to pay for the fresh produce we need.
I’m grateful that companies such as Canary Wharf Group, Galliard Homes, Lowick Group and many others have been very supportive of the project.
Local businesses, residents and volunteers are signing up every day and I am delighted to say Park Plaza Westminster Hotel among the latest.
The hotel will dip into its own funds to help make this project affordable while its staff will play their part by cooking and dispatching the meals.
Cooking is due to take place on Tuesday with packing and delivering following on Wednesday.
We are asking for only a few hours of your time.
Of course, I would be the first to admit that the provision of hot meals at Christmas will not solve all of society’s problems.
That is why last year I set up the With Love Cafe, in Waterloo, south London, a pay-it-forward coffee and sandwich shop in which customers are invited to contribute a bit more with the excess going towards the local homeless community as well as children from low income families.
Both of these projects – the With Love Cafe and Christmas meals – build on the brilliant work which has been carried out by charities, religious organisations and civic groups around the country for many decades.
I will be proud to play a small part in that work once again this week – and I hope you can join me. After one of the toughest years in living memory then let’s make Christmas a little bit better for the people who need it most.
If you want to volunteer this week, make a financial or food donation or arrange for your staff to take part then please contact me via [email protected]