At this time of year South Ribble and Chorley Women’s Refuges start to ask local people for help in supporting vulnerable families in their communities.

As you are all aware, Christmas is a time for spreading good will and cheer, but sadly staff at the women’s refuges know of 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 have little or no food and struggle to heat their homes or pay their bills. It is on behalf of all these women and children that South Ribble and Chorley women’s refuges operate their annual Christmas Wish Tree appeal.

The idea of the Wish Tree is simple, if you would like to support someone vulnerable in your community this Christmas then you can visit one of the wish trees and select a tag. Each tag gives a 'wish'; for example, a cuddly toy for a young child or a box of chocolates for a mum. Once you have bought the gift please return it unwrapped with the tag to the wish tree. We ask that gifts are left unwrapped so that staff from the women’s refuges can determine which child the present is suitable for.

This year’s 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 20 December in time to be distributed before Christmas. Wish Trees are also located at Stonehouse Nursery in Leyland for the children and their parents to donate gifts and at Runshaw College in Leyland for staff.

This year will be the 15th year that the Wish Tree appeal has been running and the amount of support received means that not only can the staff at the refuges 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 the appeal will distribute presents to residents of The Bridge in Chorley, a purpose-built housing scheme for homeless people aged 16-25. They will also be handed out by social workers and health visitors and to the young people supported by Leyland-based charity, Key Unlocking Futures, which works to help young people up to the age of 25 build a better life for themselves.

Sarah Bell, Support Worker for South Ribble and Chorley women’s refuges, said: “Christmas is a magical time of year – especially for children, but sadly this isn’t the case for everyone.

“'The women and children at the refuge often arrive with few or no personal possessions, so gifts such as a jigsaw puzzle, gloves and scarf set or a cuddly toy are just a small way of helping to make Christmas a happier one for them whilst living at our refuges.”

Mayor of South Ribble, Councillor Linda Woollard, said: “The tree has been up a mere matter of days and already we have seen a huge response to the appeal, with lots of people taking a tag away and coming back with a gift.

“South Ribble Borough Council is proud to be supporting this appeal and it would be wonderful if all the tags have been taken away before Tuesday 20 December.”

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.