South Ribble and Chorley women’s refuge, Clare House, is asking local people for help in supporting vulnerable families in their communities this Christmas with the launch of its Wish Tree appeal.

Christmas is a time for spreading good will and cheer, but sadly staff at Clare House work with hundreds of families who are dreading Christmas this year. Many families have had to flee their homes due to domestic abuse and have left behind all of their possessions, including Christmas presents. Other women and their children who the refuge work with have little or no food and struggle to heat their homes or pay bills. It is on behalf of all these women and children that South Ribble women’s refuge operates its annual Christmas Wish Tree appeal.

The idea of the Wish Tree is simple, if you would like to support someone in your community this Christmas then you can visit one of the trees and select a tag. Each tag gives a 'wish'; for example, a pair of slippers for a mum or a cuddly toy for a young child. You buy the gift and then return it unwrapped with the tag to the tree. Staff from Clare House will then collect the gifts and distribute them in time for Christmas.

This year the Christmas wish trees are located at Progress Housing Group’s head office on King Street in Leyland and at South Ribble Borough Council's Civic Centre on West Paddock, Leyland. Gifts will be collected at noon on Tuesday 15 December in time to be distributed before Christmas. Wish Trees are also located at Stonehouse Nursery in Leyland for children and parents to donate gifts, and for staff at Runshaw College in Leyland.

This year will be the 14th year the Wish Tree has been running and the amount of support received means that not only can the staff at Clare House help the families that they work directly with, but can also support other families and young people in South Ribble and Chorley that are in need.

This year Clare House will also be distributing present to residents of The Bridge in Chorley, a purpose built housing scheme for homeless people aged 16-25, as well as via social workers and health visitors and to the young people supported by homelessness charity Key Unlocking Futures which provides support to young people up to the age of 25 who are homeless or worried that they might become homeless.

Sarah Bell, Child Support Worker at South Ribble and Chorley women’s refuge, said: “The Wish Trees makes a huge difference and the support people give is absolutely fantastic. I can’t express how much it means to the young people and families across South Ribble and Chorley.

“Women and children at the Refuge often arrive with few or no personal possessions, so gifts such as a doll, a hat and scarf set or a colour book are just a small way of helping to make Christmas a happier one for them whilst living at Clare House.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse you can call the 24 hour South Ribble and Chorley domestic abuse helpline for free, confidential advice on 01772 435865.