Ivybridge Salvation Army is preparing for a busy Christmas period as the team continue their annual scheme of preparing present packages for children in the local area.

Church ministers Ruth and Ian Hammond have devoted their time to helping low income families in Ivybridge and surrounding areas, and ensuring every child gets the Christmas they deserve. 

Ruth said: “Its an amazing thing to offer… allowing them to not be the odd one out at school, (and) taking the pressure off of Christmas. So many parents are having that struggle.”

The Salvation Army is based at The Bridge in Ivybridge, but they also allow other groups to share the space, creating a hub of care and assistance for local people in need. 

They share resources so that anyone who needs help receives the right support, working closely with Ivybridge Foodbank and other groups like So Social, who encourage people to make friends and socialise.

At The Bridge, they host a Community Cafe three days a week. 

Ian said: “Lots of people come in for various reasons, some for coffee and cake, some for a friendly face or a listening ear…. It enables us to link up with people in the community. 

“We help with benefits, budgeting, debt management, and just talking to people through difficult things in life. Sometimes we give practical advice, and sometimes we just listen... its about not leaving people on their own with stuff.”

The network they have really highlights the community spirit of Ivybridge. It allows these local groups to refer clients to one another, depending on their needs.

“Networking is massively key,” added Ian, “So social (use the space) three times a week.... We can point people to them, they can point people to us.”

Ivybridge’s Youth for Christ use the hub on Fridays, and they also have a group that specialises in helping children with special needs.

Ruth said: “Its a space they can use, which is lovely, being able to do that. Its a lovely little network (and creates) a nice friendly safe place for people to go to. That’s our desire, that people see it as a place of safety, with someone there to listen.”

For their Christmas toy appeal, the organisation ask for donations of brand new, unwrapped toys. They get referrals from social services and the children centre to ensure every child experiences the spirit of Christmas. 

“We cover a chunk of the South Hams, not just Ivybridge, and put together a gift bag for those children… We try to give a gift bag with two or three presents and some stocking fillers.

“We have at least four babies that haven’t been born yet, right up to 18 year olds.”

Social services inform the Salvation Army of the hobbies or interests of the child, so the presents are tailored to them. 

“They are delivered by social services….. we send them in a gift bag, unwrapped, so mum and dad can manage it however they want, to make it work for them.”

They try to have the gifts prepared by the second week of December, so ask that people donate gifts by December 8.

“There’s a massive thing that parents feel like they’re letting down their children if they’re not able to give them something, give them that experience. They’re just so grateful that they’re able to give something and see that joy... (and) because we try to tailor the gifts it really hits the spot for those kids."

They have seen an increase in demand for their work in recent years: “It has gone up steadily each year, and there’s an increase in demand generally, people struggling with energy who haven’t had a payment and have got nothing left…. We’re constantly doing a lot of top ups.”

They explained that there has been a shift in their clients; it is no longer just those that are unable to find work that are seeking help: “We’re seeing more anxiety in people…. People who are employed and still struggling to make ends meet. (We’ve) seen a shift in that preconceived idea... Its widening into a much larger area of our community.”

To donate, bring your donations to The Bridge on Tuesday from 9.00am-1.00pm, or Wednesday to Friday from 9.00am-3.30pm.