Trained chefs, musicians and a small army of home bakers will join together to feed those in need this holiday season, after a family-run café in Uddingston, near Glasgow, announced plans to serve a free meal on Christmas Day.
The outpouring of festive goodwill followed a Facebook post from Gail Gillon, the owner of Jollytots & Cookies, which unexpectedly went viral this week.
Gail wrote that she wanted to “bring some cheer into those that have little” – and like a Christmas miracle, her message spread far and wide. The post has now been shared more than 3,800 times, with hundreds commenting below to volunteer their time and skills.
From personal experience, Gail said she understands that Christmas is not merry and bright for everyone.
“I’m a mental health nurse and I’m very much aware of the problems that face people at Christmas,” she said. “It’s meant to be a joyous occasion, but for many it is miserable, sad and lonely.
“I’ve known that for a long time growing up in quite a dysfunctional family myself. My father was an alcoholic and we grew up in extreme poverty at times. So I suppose I have always had a wee bit of empathy for people that have such sad stories and sad backgrounds. It all culminated to create this.”
Since Jollytots & Cookies is a family-run business, Gail knew that they could staff the place themselves and so – driven by an impulse to help – she posted her idea to Facebook.
“Within 20 minutes I had phoned my partner and gone ahead and put it on Facebook. He was quite dubious at first. He thought no one will come, who would be interested in Christmas Day? We couldn’t believe the response we got,” she said.
“It has just been absolutely crazy.”
So many people offered to help that Gail isn’t sure she’ll have space for them all – she is running a volunteers evening on 14 December to coordinate the team. “All welcome,” she said.
The Uddingston café plans to open for 12-4pm to provide anyone who needs it with a huge buffet of hot food – as well as company and Christmas spirit.
“We’ll be playing music and hopefully have a visit from Santa Claus. We’re anticipating a lot of donations so I have asked people to bring along items that are non-perishable and we’ll give them to anyone who comes along as a box to take away with them as a gift.”
Gail also reached out to the team at INSP’s local street paper The Big Issue to invite their vendors to the party.
The offer means a lot, said Big Issue sales and outreach worker Beth Hardingham: “A huge thank you to Jollytots & Cookies for providing a hot Christmas meal on Christmas Day for The Big Issue vendors. The Big Issue will spread the word amongst all the vendors to be sure everyone has a very merry Christmas!”
As well as the vendors from The Big Issue, Gail will welcome anyone that is lonely this Christmas and in need of a good meal.