EXCLUSIVE by Trevor Baxter
HOMELESS FAMILIES from a flood ravaged Cumbrian village will spend Christmas in Saddleworth and Oldham thanks to a part-time DJ and the generosity of local businesses.
And relatives, friends and neighbours left behind in devastated Appleby-in-Westmorland won’t miss out under plans being co-ordinated by Neil Greenwood and Charles Brierley, owner of the White Hart at Lydgate.
Around 30 people will enjoy Christmas Day dinner at the George Tavern in Oldham before spending the night at Charles’ famous Stockport Road hotel.
Paul’s Quality Meats will supply a turkey while Julian Garrett’s Saddleworth Wine Vault – both based on Uppermill High Street – will provide extra festive cheer.
Presents from other businesses, including Tiz Designs Jewellery in Delph, have already been donated or pledged and are starting to arrive at the White Hart.
After being wined and dined, the flood victims will return home on Boxing Day, on coaches provided by Swans travel, packed with gifts for people whose lives were also hit when Storm Desmond struck the Lake District earlier this month.
Neil, 43, is a familiar face at the White Hart through his DJ Party Nights’ work but also volunteers at homeless shelters over Christmas.
“It all started when I put a post on Facebook offering four people to come to my house (in Bottom Sholver) for Christmas Dinner,” he told the Saddleworth Independent.
“George Tavern then messaged me privately saying we could seat 30 if I wanted to invite more.
“I then got in touch with Charles saying ‘I might potentially have 30 people for lunch but it is a long way to come just for Christmas Dinner, could you put them up?
“Charles came back and said ‘we are closed after lunch on Christmas Day and so the rooms will be available’ and it has snow balled from there,” added Neil, a freelance greetings card salesman.
“Everything is now in place to give 31 people, who’ve lost their homes, 24 hours of top Oldham and Saddleworth hospitality this Christmas.”
Since Neil’s initial idea, Charles has contacted Appleby Rotary Club who are organising a ballot to decide which are the villagers most in need of respite and care.
Bill Collinson, chairman of the ARC Community Services Committee, said: “There are single parents on zero hour contracts who have lost their homes and the businesses they work for have also been ruined. It is devastating for many families.
“We are asking people to apply for this offer and we will be holding the ballot on Monday.”
Presents for the Cumbrian flood victims can be dropped off for collection at the George Tavern, the White Hart or Dinnerstone, Uppermill.
All presents should be wrapped and labelled correctly so for children: boy, girl or unisex and age range. Or, if for adults, marked for men or women. Blankets and food are not required.
Collinson added: “We don’t need emergency aid now, but folks don’t have any luxury treats so a Christmas hamper would be really appreciated.”
Neil’s campaign is the second time locals have come to the aid of the homeless. The Saddleworth Independent recently reported the efforts of Good Samaritan, Robert Mark from Carrbrook, to find suitable accommodation and help for rough sleeper, Lee McCormac, who spent nearly three months living in a derelict bus shelter and toilet block on Manchester Road.