A Northumberland pub had a heartbreaking response to a recent Christmas activity as the true impact of the cost of living on local residents hit home.
The Percy Arms in Chatton was asked if it could help provide gifts for underprivileged children in the region and the venue fully expected requests for toys. However, what transpired was far from the festive joy expected.
Among the modest requests, a 15-year-old girl asked for: "A present for my dad. He’s sad since my mum died and not in a good place."
Another, from an eight-year-old girl, reads: "Clean clothes, please. Mine are dirty."
Meanwhile, a 17-year-old boy simply asked for "anything" as he's not used to receiving any presents at all.
The pub, part of The Inn Hospitality Group portfolio, has teamed up with Bedlington-based community organisation Christmas For All, which has created a gift tag for each child, giving their age, gender and outlining their request. The tags have now been hung on a Christmas tree in the pub and customers are invited to choose one, fulfil the request and return the gifts to the pub, which will pass them to Christmas For All to be distributed to the children.
The organisation is looking for gifts for around 2000 children in South East Northumberland alone, some of whom have been referred to them by other organisations or local authorities and others who have been self-referred.
Oliver Bennet - co-founder, with Matt Daniel, of Inn Hospitality Group - said the children’s requests “had shaken each and every one of us to the core.
He added: “You can read about hardship and food banks and poverty, but to see, written down in black and white, young children asking simply for some clean clothes for Christmas – well, that really hits you. And many of them – despite having so little themselves – put others’ happiness before their own.
“That’s the real spirit of Christmas isn’t it – and it’s heartbreaking that it’s taking children to remind us of that.”