KIND-HEARTED business owners have stepped in with their own Santa plan to ensure children get a Christmas to remember.
A fund set up by care services business owner Julie McFarland has snowballed to reach £4,000 so sackfuls of toys can be distributed to those children most in need.
Julie, owner of Jemcare, based in Flimby, Cumbria, came up with the idea when she heard there were children in her community who may miss out on a gift this Christmas - such was the hardship families have found themselves in at the end of a difficult year.
Other local businesses and individuals have got involved. Forth Engineering immediately offered to match Julie’s £1,000 donation to get the ball rolling, and Flimby Carnival Committee donated £1,000 and have helped with the logistics of buying and distributing presents.
Now Julie’s group is linking up with the local primary school to make sure their gifts go to the most deserving children.
Julie, who employs 175 people, has been providing care services across West Cumbria for 23 years and serves the communities of Flimby, Maryport, Dearham, Workington, Whitehaven, Frizington, Cleator Moor, and Egremont.
Julie said: “When I heard about what was happening and how much families were struggling I couldn’t sit by and do nothing.
“Flimby and the surrounding area have been good to me and my business and I felt it was important to give something back and do what I can to help.
“I have been overwhelmed with the level of support I am receiving. It restores your faith in human nature and in the power of communities to see people rally round to help.”
Mark Telford, managing director of Forth Engineering which has just celebrated its 20th anniversary and employs almost 50 people at its bases in Flimby, Cleator Moor, and Barrow, also wanted to help as soon as he heard children might otherwise go without a present this Christmas.
Mark said: “We are fortunate to be a successful business with a great team of people who help organisations around the world solve their industry challenges from our headquarters in Flimby.
“Throughout the development of the company, community has always remained at the heart of what we do, and it is as important to us today as the day we started.
“The Forth team have already gone the extra mile to raise money to supply PPE and equipment needed by local hospitals and care homes during the pandemic.
“But when you hear of families on your doorstep, right here in Flimby where our business is based, who are struggling in this way, you want to do something which makes a positive difference.
“Especially at this time of year, and especially this year, of all years, it’s awful to think of situations where children won’t get a present this Christmas.
“Julie has done a tremendous job to take action and get the ball rolling herself and inspire others to get involved.
“We too are known for getting stuff done, and we are delighted to lend our full support and donate £1,000 to help make this happen.”
Jacqui Wilson, headteacher at Flimby Primary School, said the initiative reflected the village’s strong community spirit.
“Although this has been a difficult year for many people, it has also demonstrated the strength of this community.
“This initiative will make a huge difference to many families. It will ease the pressure and make things a little less stressful by offering them a little extra help during a very difficult time.
“It’s about recognising that life isn’t easy for many people, and when times are tough, there are people out there who are willing to support you.”
The group is asking people to donate presents unwrapped so they can be categorised for different ages of children - and to drop them off at Donation Stations at Jemcare’s head office at Main Road, Flimby and in the reception at Forth’s headquarters at Risehow, Flimby. Anyone interested in making a donation of toys who wants to find out more is invited to contact Julie on email@example.com.
The group has also arranged for a special visit from Santa on Saturday, December 19 when extra gifts will be handed from his sleigh to children throughout the village.