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How Court Collaboration is Developing Christmas Spirit in Nechells
Christmas Day at free@last has become something of an occasion – and it’s very special to us for many reasons.
We could not open our Christmas Day lunch to so many people without the financial donations given to us by our supporters, one of which is Court Collaboration. Court Collaboration is a local, specialist residential developer, who you’ll see over the next few years changing the skyline of Birmingham. Among their projects you’ll find One Eastside, soon to be the tallest building in the city at 51 stories, while Brindley Drive is a regeneration scheme in the heart of the city centre.
Our relationship with Court Collaboration began with founder Anthony McCourt, who has been a part of our festive lunch for the last seven years. The business has been a strong champion of the free@last cause ever since that first lunch and has come up with various ways to help us and give back to the community.
Their donations to our festive lunch help us pay for the food we serve and the gifts we give every child. In recent years Court Collaboration have included a message in the Christmas cards they send to their clients, outlining that instead of buying corporate gifts, they use those funds to support us. This in turn spreads awareness of free@last and encourages other organisations to do the same.
Court Collaboration Managing Director, Alex Neale, said: “Our passion for Birmingham runs much deeper than the developments we deliver, and supporting this fantastic local charity is just one of the things we can do to help people in our city. Free@last do wonderful work and it’s an honour for us to be involved with such a worthwhile cause.”
Our relationships with organisations like Court Collaboration, and the individuals and businesses supporting us are key. We are always thankful for our volunteers who give up part of their day to come and help with the setup, serving and washing up, often bringing along their own families to help. The hours they give up make a big difference.
So – what impact does all this support have?
For the last seven years, we’ve opened on Christmas Day to share lunch with the community of Nechells. We offer an open invitation to everyone who wants to join us.
That first year 33 people came along; people who were feeling isolated and alone, families, children, parents and grandparents who couldn’t otherwise eat together or provide a gift for their children and individuals who find Christmas Day difficult for personal reasons.
Every year since then, that number has grown. In 2020, when we were unable to mix together due to Covid-19, free@last delivered around 100 meals to homes instead, ensuring that even in that most difficult of years, no one felt completely forgotten at Christmas.
Perhaps one of the more unexpected impacts has been in the way we bring together the wider community. Nechells has a mix of ethnicities, and not everyone celebrates Christmas. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot all come together. We were delighted to see increasing numbers of our Chinese, African, Asian and Eastern European communities joining in. It’s one of the few events that takes place where everyone feels a part of the same Nechells community – and as a big part of the free@last ethos is that it takes a whole village to raise every child, it’s a wonderful opportunity to bring more parts of that village together.
Our Christmas Day lunch is not the only festive event that we wouldn’t be able to run without our amazing volunteers. This year, two of the children we support will be on stage in the performance of Peter Pan at the Alexander Theatre with BMOS Theatrical Group. We’ll be making two trips to watch the show. We have various parties and plans taking place over the festive season. And as 2023 begins, we’ll be making plans with our Chinese volunteers to celebrate Chinese New Year with all of the families in Nechells.
Our community continues to grow, and it’s the continued support of organisations like Court Collaboration that makes it happen.
AND… Court Collaboration and some of the One Eastside project team are embarking on a Charity Run/Walk in Long Mynd, Shropshire, to continue supporting the vital work of the free@last charity. As a company, they are hoping to raise £20,000 and you can show your support by clicking this link and sponsoring them – https://www.justgiving.com/page/court-collaborationcharityrun