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Aberdeen teenagers launch charity appeal to give free meals to homeless people

Ryan Bannerman, 15 and Lucas Mackenzie, 14 have launched a charity appeal for people to donate their McDonald's Monopoly Tokens, which give away prizes, including free food and drink. They will donate all the tokens they collect to The Care Hub Aberdeen, which is a local cause which provides support to the vulnerable and homeless. Pictured are Lucas (centre) and Ryan with Michelle Houghton, co-founder of the Care Hub Aberdeen.  Picture by Chris Sumner/DCT
Ryan Bannerman, 15 and Lucas Mackenzie, 14 have launched a charity appeal for people to donate their McDonald's Monopoly Tokens, which give away prizes, including free food and drink. They will donate all the tokens they collect to The Care Hub Aberdeen, which is a local cause which provides support to the vulnerable and homeless. Pictured are Lucas (centre) and Ryan with Michelle Houghton, co-founder of the Care Hub Aberdeen. Picture by Chris Sumner/DCT

Two teenagers have joined forces in a “selfless” cause to help homeless and vulnerable people in Aberdeen.

Lucas Mackenzie, 14, and Ryan Bannerman, 15, have launched an appeal to provide hot meals to those who struggle to make ends meet.

The boys, who have dedicated their free time to supporting the most vulnerable in their community, are collecting McDonald’s Monopoly tokens to give out to people in need.

Since 2005, the fast food restaurant has been running the popular promotion to give customers a chance to grab prizes by looking out for the stickers on menu items.

Among a wide range of rewards, those who take part in the game can also win free food items off the McDonald’s menu – including cheeseburgers, fries, ice creams and hot drinks.

Now, the two pair – who volunteer for Aberdeen charity Future Choices – are asking people to donate their vouchers to give a “proper meal” to those who otherwise can’t afford it.

Lucas, who has been doing “all his best” to help since he was 11, explained why he decided to launch the appeal with his friend Ryan.

He said: “It’s always been something I’m interested in – just helping others out, because I feel like it’s something everyone should always try to do.

“We are trying to help the homeless have a proper meal, because normally they wouldn’t be able to get that. They deserve to have that main meal with a side and drink, and not just a bag of crisps or whatever they can afford.

“I see people who treat the homeless in a way they wouldn’t normally be treated themselves – it’s like they are a completely different type of human, and I think everyone should be treated the same and have the same privileges.”

‘I want to help with all my heart’

Ryan has previously run the initiative twice – providing more than 400 meals to those struggling.

The Northfield Academy pupil – who wants to collect 300 tokens to make up for the scheme being cancelled last year due to the pandemic – said: “People think that homeless people are just addicts, but it’s not always like that – they could have got into a fight with a family member or lost their jobs. It’s not what most people would expect. There is a lot more to it.

“I’m doing it because I want to help homeless people with all my heart.

“We want to get as many McDonalds’s tokens as we can, hand them out to the Care Hub and show that homelessness can be tackled.

“It’s a cruel world but there are volunteers who are brilliant and I can only say to them to stick to what they’re doing, because it’s the nicest thing they can do – even if it’s just two hours a week helping a charity, you’re making a difference in people’s lives.”

The appeal will run until October 5. All the collected tokens will then be donated to the Care Hub in Aberdeen, which offers help and support to homeless and vulnerable people in the city.

Donations needed more than ever due to rise in people struggling

Chairwoman and co-founder of the Hub, Michelle Houghton said they’ve seen a significant rise in people reaching out to them during the pandemic, with numbers almost doubling in the last 18 months.

Since March last year, the volunteer-led organisation, which relies solely on donations, has given out more than 25,000 meals and food parcels to people struggling.

Ms Houghton praised the boys for their effort and said: “It’s brilliant, because for a lot of us it doesn’t matter if we get a free coffee or a burger as we’ll just go and buy one. But for many people that we see, this is a luxury.

“A lot of people are struggling to make ends meet, and things like that are a big bonus for them. And I think it kind of highlights the little things in life we take for granted.

“It’s fantastic when anyone donates and does a fundraiser for us, but when it’s kids going out their way to do that, it just makes it 10 times better, because they are setting themselves up for a good future.”

People can donate their McDonald’s Monopoly tokens by contacting Future Choices chairman David Forbes at  https://www.future-choices.org.uk/contact-us/or on the charity’s Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/futurechoicesaberdeen

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