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St Martin-in-the-Fields BBC Christmas appeal reaches 90

09 December 2016

WESTMINSTER ABBEY

Hard bed: more than 20 staff members from Church House and Church Urban Fund are planning to sleep out in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey tonight, to raise money for the homeless

Hard bed: more than 20 staff members from Church House and Church Urban Fund are planning to sleep out in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey ton...

THE 90th BBC Radio Christmas Appeal was launched at St-Martin-in-the-Fields last Sunday. Volunteers and BBC Radio presenters gathered in the church in Trafalgar Square to take the first donations, which are to support homeless people across the UK.

The anniversary appeal, “Together for 90 years”, was made by the Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Canon Sam Wells, on Radio 4 on Sunday morning. “You can’t change people’s lives for them, but you can walk alongside them and give them trust, challenge, and encouragement while they find resources and strength to make those changes for themselves,” he said. “Alone, there is nothing any of us can do; together, there is no limit.”

It was named in honour of the long-standing “special partnership” between the church and BBC Radio in their support of efforts to address homelessness across the country.

The first mention of a Christmas appeal was made in 1920 by the then Vicar of St Martin’s, Dick Sheppard, who asked his congregation to help those who had fallen on hard times during the First World War.

The BBC broadcast its first service from St Martin’s, live, in January 1924, and continued to do so twice a month for the rest of the year. The Christmas appeal broadcast was first mentioned in the December 1927 edition of the Radio Times.

This year, the money raised is to be shared between two charities: The Connection, at St Martin’s, which offers an outreach programme, day- and night-centre, and employment, mental-health and addiction support, to help people to escape the streets of central London; and the Vicar’s Relief Fund (VRF), which provides emergency grants to pay for accommodation for homeless people, or to allow people who are struggling to keep up rent or mortgage payments to keep their home.

“There is a host of support workers around the country who know their vulnerably housed people by name,” Dr Wells said. “They can use grants of £300 from the VRF to intervene at decisive moments; and The Connection is helping people as they face up to the issues that have rendered them destitute, isolated, and desperate.”

To donate, phone 0800 082 82 84 or visit smitfc.org/donate.

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