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Aberdeen charities giving hope and ‘lifeline’ help to those in need this Christmas

Community Christmas spirit is stronger than ever in Aberdeen, where incredible volunteers and charities are supporting vulnerable people and those experiencing homelessness

Omowande Yoloye is one of the amazing volunteers who is supporting people in need this Christmas.
Omowande Yoloye is one of the Salvation Army's amazing volunteers who will be serving Christmas dinner to those in need in Aberdeen. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

It’s not found in extravagant presents, glitzy party nights or lavish dinners.

No, the true spirit of Christmas can be found at the heart of our communities in Aberdeen where incredible people are doing incredible things to support those in need over the festive period.

Today we shine a light on the selfless volunteers and charities who are giving the most important presents to those in need over the festive season – the gift of hope.

The Salvation Army

Hope in human form, Omowande Yoloye is one of the amazing volunteers who is preparing to serve dinner to 100 people at Aberdeen Citadel Salvation Army on Christmas Day.

Smile beaming and eyes twinkling as he serves up homemade lentil and pepper soup to the 40 people who have dropped into the Salvation Army community hub in Castle Street, Omowande, who is also known as Wande, knows all too well how powerful the gift of kindness is, especially at Christmas.

After being attacked in the city centre back in September 2021, Wande suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which resulted in him dropping out of his PHD studies at the University of Aberdeen and he ended up homeless.

Olowande Yoloye says helping those in need brings him so much joy. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Lost and desperately in need of help, Wande, who has two degrees in economics and petroleum and energy economics, turned up at the Aberdeen Citadel Salvation Army in Castle Street.

From the moment he stepped foot through the door, he was given a nourishing bowl of homemade soup, a steaming cup of tea and most importantly, a sense of hope and faith that everything was going to be alright.

Finding light in a dark place

Through the Salvation Army, a Christian church and charity, Wande has got his life back on track while his faith in humanity has been restored.

He’s now using his own experience to help others in similar situations.

“When I walked into the Salvation Army, I had lost everything, I didn’t know what to do,” says Wande.

“But the help that I got really changed my life.

“Now I have the opportunity to do the same for other people through being a volunteer.

“It’s the greatest way to give back to the community.”

Olowande Yoloye loves giving back to the community. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Community Christmas Day dinner

Joining Wande in the community kitchen on Christmas Day will also be Major Peter Renshaw, the commanding officer at Aberdeen Citadel Salvation Army.

“It’s a very special day as we’ll start with a few Christmas carols and I’ll give a very short thought for the day and a prayer and then we serve the three course meals up,” says Peter.

“The entire day is run by volunteers so we’ll have volunteer servers and people doing the washing up while members of the local rotary club go round on Christmas morning to pick people up and bring them to the dinner before members of the Salvation Army church take them back to their homes after they’ve eaten their meal.”

Major Peter Renshaw, the commanding officer at Aberdeen Citadel Salvation Army, has thanked the local community for their stellar support of the past year. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

It’s not just Christmas Day that kind-hearted volunteers give up their time though as day in and day out over the year, the community heroes are hard at work supporting vulnerable people.

“With our community hub we have people coming in every day because they’ve got nowhere else to go and a lot of them don’t have the money to buy food so they come in here and they get what we offer them,” says Peter.

“I would like to say a huge thank you to the community of Aberdeen for supporting us so well with donations through the year particularly at Christmas as without their donations we couldn’t do the work that we do.”

Pictured from back are Peter Renshaw, Judy Hart, the facilities coordinator and volunteers Olowande Yoloye, Aileen Catto, Blair Kennedy and Miriam Duncan. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Street Friends

Working closely with the Salvation Army to support those who have fallen on hard times are the volunteers at Street Friends, a community group of volunteers in Aberdeen who take food and drinks out to people on the streets.

Unassuming and softly spoken, Albert Annand is one of the charity’s 24 selfless volunteers who brave the elements on a daily basis to provide support to those in need.

“On a daily basis we’re helping between 40 and 50 people,” says Albert.

“Most of the people we see, we’re giving them food and hot drinks.

Albert Annand is one of the selfless volunteers at Street Friends. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

“Some people ask for a Pot Noodle and they’ll ask for it to be made on the spot because they can’t boil a kettle at home as they have no electricity.

“We’re a lifeline as we’re handing out sleeping bags and blankets as well now.

“We have given out a couple of sleeping bags to folk who are actually staying in their house but they have no heating and they’re sleeping inside a sleeping bag.”

Homelessness can affect anyone

As someone on the front line, Albert knows that homelessness is something that can affect anyone.

“Homelessness can impact anyone at any time,” says Albert.

“The people we do see are reserved and they won’t talk much or tell you too much.

“We don’t ask them but once we get to know them a few people will open up.

“Everybody has their own circumstances.”

Albert is passionate about helping those in need in Aberdeen. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Based within the former First Bus office in Union Street, the charity are out on the streets supporting people in need six days a week.

“We try to go out in all weathers, rain, snow or sleet,” says Albert.

“We’ve got about 24 volunteers consisting of old and young people and we also get brilliant support from local companies including the Sandwich Larder and Doorsteps.”

Aberdeen Cyrenians

Also spreading hope and lifeline support this Christmas and all year round is the Aberdeen Cyrenians, a charity which provides care and support for vulnerable people and anyone experiencing homelessness or at risk of losing their home through poverty.

Over the past year, the charity has supported 1,631 people in Aberdeen across nine services.

One of those who has been supported is a man called George whose life had become chaotic as he struggled with alcoholism, poor mental health and the loss of his father.

No longer managing his tenancy, he was evicted and became homeless.

But everything turned around for George when he came into contact with the charity who helped him to secure a place to call home as well as personal and social care.

“Housing is a basic fundamental right, it’s not an investment,” says Donna Hutchison, the head of corporate and business services at the charity.

“It’s a right of being human and that’s key.

“Our view is you need somewhere stable, secure and functional as a house to call home to allow you to address your other challenges.”

Donna Hutchison, head of corporate and business Services at Aberdeen Cyrenians (left) with Sandy Anderson, finance manager, and Jen McAughtrie, the head of services.

Pressure on charities increasing

For over 50 years, the charity has been at the frontline of supporting people affected by homelessness with the demand for their services rising each year.

“What we’re seeing is far greater in work poverty so we are seeing families present more,” says Donna.

“In July, August, September we saw 800 people at our crisis centre in Summer Street, that’s about 40 to 50 people a day and about 150 families are within that 800.

“Eighteen months ago we would see around 25 to 30 people a day so it’s clear that we have this cost-of-living crisis affecting everybody.”

Over £60,000 worth of food, hygiene items and clothing has been donated to the charity to support those in need over the past year. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

With the cost of living crisis continuing, Aberdeen charities like the Cyrenians, the Salvation Army and Street Friends face pressures like never before as they work tirelessly round the clock to support those in desperate need.

So as we all sit down with our loved ones for Christmas dinner just remember that the greatest gift of all this festive season is the gift of hope.

For more information about the Salvation Army, check out their website or Facebook page


Or to find out about the Aberdeen Cyrenians winter appeal, check out their website

and for more about Aberdeen Street Friends, go to their Facebook page.