Sarah-Jayne Stephanakis pictured with some of the 2021 presents for Danesbrook. Credit: Sarah-Jayne Stephanakis and Jill Clude

Danescourt community project will give gifts to vulnerable people despite cost of living crisis

The Christmas Present Project in Danescourt is showing elderly care users and adults with additional needs that they are a valuable part of the community

IN the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown when families were unable to see each other, the Danescourt community came together to support its most vulnerable people. Despite the ongoing cost of living crisis, the group is continuing to give gifts to vulnerable care users.

“It all started the Christmas of 2020,” said Sarah-Jayne Stephanakis, the primary school teacher and mother-of-two who first came up with the idea.

“It broke my heart that there would be people not seeing their families because to me that’s what Christmas is.”

Mrs Stephanakis is often known as ‘Mrs Christmas’ to her family

After reaching out to Danesbrook Residential Home and Timothy Rees Care Homes in Danescourt, Mrs Stephanakis’ gift-giving idea quickly gained community support, including the backing of Councillor Peter Huw Jenkins.

“I gathered a wish list from the homes and put it up in the Danescourt Coronavirus Facebook Support group, put my daughter to bed and just within that first hour it went bonkers!” said Mrs Stephanakis.

“There were probably about 100 care users and their carers that we bought for in total. People were buying multiple presents for each care user – I was inundated with support.”

Some of the Christmas gifts from 2021, ready to be delivered to Danesbrook. Credit: Jill Clude

This year, the community is continuing to give gifts to care users, despite the impact of the cost-of-living crisis which has made it more difficult for people to afford their usual Christmas shopping.

“I was really nervous about putting it out there this year,” said Mrs Stephanakis, who admitted that she will be spending less on her own children this year to enable her to buy for somebody else.

“I can’t believe it’s still happening even with the cost of living crisis. I’m overwhelmed,” said an emotional Joanne Nolan, manager of Danesbrook House Residential Home, when Mrs Stephanakis phoned to say that the project had full support this year.

Despite her important role, Mrs Stephanakis has been quick to emphasise that she is “just the penpusher” and this project is a whole community effort.

In the project’s first year, the group bought gifts for around 100 carers and care users. Credit: Jill Clune.

But for Danescourt, it’s important that the project continues because it also shows vulnerable care users they are a part of the community.

“We should show our children how to incorporate those not viewed as ‘normal people’ in society. To show that they’re not to be ignored, they’re not to be shunned and they need to be included. This was our way of doing that,” said the mother-of-two behind the idea.

More details for the project can be found on the ‘Danescourt, Cardiff: Coronavirus Support’ Facebook group, with gifts set to be delivered this year on Saturday, December 17.

When asked if she hopes it is something that will continue every year, Mrs Stephanakis told The Cardiffian: “If there’s always the support there for it, and I think there will be, then we will keep going as long as we can.”

“The gift of giving and that serotonin you get with doing something good is something we don’t have a lot of right now in our daily life because of the news, the cost-of-living crisis. That’s maybe why it’s more important than ever.”