A social enterprise has launched its Festival of Kindness in the Granite City.
Social Bite is on a mission this Christmas to provide hundreds of thousands of meals and gifts to vulnerable people and those experiencing homelessness.
Today, a 28ft tree was installed in the area outside the St Nicholas Centre in Aberdeen where the public can drop off Christmas gifts for those in need.
Founder and chief executive Josh Littlejohn explained why they decided to bring the festive initiative to the north-east.
“We obviously have the Social Bite cafe in Aberdeen and we’ve done lots of things here in the past, we did a big sleepout event here and we’ve got lots of great supporters,” he said.
“We thought it would be a great place to bring the campaign and encourage Aberdonians to come and donate a gift for people who need it at Christmas.”
A wish list of much needed gifts
The Christmas tree will be staffed by volunteers and team members every day with members of the public invited to drop off items in gift bags.
Social Bite and its 99 charity partners have created a wish list online featuring the items which will make the greatest impact.
Alternatively, people can donate money or buy a gift online – giving £5 would provide someone with a Christmas meal while £20 would get a person a bed and support for the night.
Mr Littlejohn added: “We’ve canvassed lots of Aberdeen charities working with homeless people and other vulnerable groups to find out what kind of things people need.
“They’ve come back and said they need gloves and hats, winter jackets and boots, or some have said they need toys for kids or women’s beauty products, all sorts of things.
“We’ve got different places where we’re going to take the gifts every day to sort them into categories and then get them distributed to other partners.
“So, hopefully people donate that range and it’ll make its way round the people of Aberdeen that need it in time for Christmas.”
Spreading festive cheer
The Trees of Kindness are returning to Edinburgh and Glasgow for a second year, while Dundee and London have been added as new locations alongside Aberdeen.
“It was amazing. We did the tree in Edinburgh and Glasgow and got 10,000 physical gifts donated and raised £1.5million,” Mr Littlejohn said.
“It was a brilliant initiative so we just thought we’d build on that and see how generous everyone in Aberdeen can be.”
Social Bite has set a target of providing 300,000 gifts, meals and essential items following the great success of last year.
“Last year we provided 250,000 over the winter period so we thought we’d up the ante a bit,” he said.
“We’ve done this big exercise canvassing the needs from 99 charity partners, so when you add up all those items and all the meals we’re going to distribute, that’s around the number it comes to.
“People when they’re donating money or donating something, it’s really nice for it to be tangible and people know what they’ll be achieving with that, so it’s good to set a target.”
A hot meal on Christmas Day
Social Bite, which began as a small cafe in Edinburgh in 2012, opens its doors on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day so people who are homeless can enjoy a hot meal.
“That’s a really important aspect of our work,” the founder shared.
“We’re opening the Aberdeen cafe on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for anyone that’s homeless or lonely or vulnerable to come. That’s something we’re doing across all of our cafes, it’s something that is always really well supported.”
The Aberdeen Tree of Kindness will be located at St Nicholas Street until Thursday, December 23.
Gifts can be donated from 10am to 2pm from Monday to Wednesday and 11am to 7pm from Thursday to Sunday.