Rotary club’s Christmas mercy mission underway

John McMonagle, Werner Schell and John McCrossan at the Rotary Christmas tree outside the Foyleside.  (1312JB160)

John McMonagle, Werner Schell and John McCrossan at the Rotary Christmas tree outside the Foyleside. (1312JB160)

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The local rotary council’s annual mercy mission to bring Christmas cheer to Derry families in financial difficulty gets underway tomorrow.

Following the success of last year’s effort to bring food hampers to local families from the proceeds of the Derry Tree of Remembrance collection, local rotary members have decided to launch an even bigger drive called the Helping Hamper Campaign.

Each year Rotary donates the proceeds of the Tree - which will be situated at the Orchard Street entrance to Foyleside Shopping Centre from tomorrow - to help local charities. However, after being moved by many of the stories of the plights of Derry families, the council - in consultation with local agencies such as Dove House, St Vincent de Paul, the Western Board, local health centres and others - decided to give directly to local people in need at Christmas.

Each year the club has used the proceeds of the Tree - which is situated at the Orchard Street entrance to Foyleside shopping centre - to help local charities but last Christmas members were moved by many of the stories Derry’s less well off families.

Last year 180 hampers of food and essentials, valued at around £55 each, were donated but the local Rotarians plan to giveaway 300 to local families this Christmas. Local charities will still benefit from the drive but most of the money raised will go towards the Helping Hamper Campaign.

President Gavin Killeen said the campaign will help many local families this festive season.

“For many years now our club has donated Christmas Hampers to local organisations who are aware of and have ensured that the hampers reach those families most in need in Derry.

“This year we are aiming to double the number of hampers we were able to provide last Christmas,” he said.

The Rotary Tree of Remembrance has been a great success since its inception in December 2009 and now has a special place in the hearts of Derry shoppers at Christmas.

It allows donors to write special messages in remembrance of departed loved ones, those living abroad and unable to be with them at Christmas, family or friends in hospital or others on ribbons and attach them to the tree which will then be taken to church services both of the city’s cathedrals where dedications will take place.

The Tree of Remembrance will be located outside Foyleside Shopping Centre on Orchard Street and will run from tomorrow right up until Christmas Eve.