Photo caption: Pictured left to right are CGM CRC’s Hayley Stapleton and Carl Duddridge receiving presents from the church’s Val Ridley
A MUM-of-two who ended up on probation after taking drugs to help her cope following her partner’s death has been helped by a church in Oldham to give her children a special Christmas.
Worshippers at the Shore Edge Methodist Church, in Buckstones Road, Shaw, have donated new and second hand gifts to Oldham probation for more than 20 years.
Toys are collected by the Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company’s (CGM CRC) probation case managers Carl Duddridge and Hayley Stapleton, who then distribute them among offenders who are known to have children and be in need.
Emma has a five-year-old and 10-year-old child. She has been overwhelmed by the church’s gift, having been left short of money following her son’s birthday, which meant she no-longer qualified for income support, and because she doesn’t get her first Universal Credit payment until the New Year.
She said: “The church’s help has been a lifeline. Christmas is only 20 days away and I have no money.
“It means so much to me that the children will receive proper presents, and I want to thank the church for its generosity.
“Universal Credit is a pain in the neck and it’s made it tougher for many like me at the worst time of the year.”
Jane Young, CGM CRC senior case manager, helps run a group for women offenders in Oldham and accompanied Emma to the probation office to collect presents.
Emma, who had never previously been in trouble with the law, was sentenced to a Community Order for child neglect after she became addicted to amphetamine and alcohol. She has been clean from amphetamine for almost two years and Boxing Day is her 12-month anniversary of quitting alcohol.
She said: “I’ve been through the mill, I was messing my life up and wasn’t able to look after my children properly – but we were all grieving.
“Drink gave me the confidence to get out of the house, but it was also making me demented.”
Emma had quit drugs and alcohol before starting probation, having benefitted from Acorn’s recovery courses, run at Brunswick House.
She added: “I like probation and it’s really helped me to go forward with my life because I needed support and something positive to fill my time with. I was already clean, but I needed help to refocus.
“I was nervous before I started, but the women’s centre has been great for me.
“I like attending the courses probation runs, and the women I meet have had similar experiences to me – some are also in recovery – and we help each other.”
Jane said: “Emma is doing well, we are all proud of her progress. She was nervous about accepting the help and so I went with her to the probation office, but she deeply appreciates what the church has done.”
Parishioner Val Ridley helps run the initiative at Shore Edge church. As well as toys, people donate selection boxes and clothing.
She said: “The children get so much at Christmas. We encourage them to think about others in the borough during the festive period who might not be as lucky as they are, and to donate toys to them.
“One of former parishioners – PC Humphrey – started it off more than two decades ago. He knew that many people on probation were in need, and it’s now become a regular fixture in our festive calendar.”
Children donate their own toys and buy new ones especially for the occasion. On the first Sunday in the month of December the toys are brought in to a special service, before being collected by CGM CRC the following day.
Val added: “We have wonderful children at this church and I am delighted they are able to spread a little Christmas cheer.”