A CARING team of travel agents in Wallasey are using their brand new shop as a drop-off point for vital donations for the homeless.
Staff at Hays Travel in Wallasey, which has recently relocated to a more prominent branch on Liscard Way, have teamed up with Birkenhead-based Charles Thompson’s Mission to help rough sleepers and people living in poverty.
The new base will be a drop-off point for small donations such as underwear, socks and toiletries which will then be handed over to the charity who get around 70 people through their door every day.
The team of six staff at Hays Travel Wallasey are also raising money for Charles Thompson’s Mission, as well as their own initiative to make up bag packs to distribute to the homeless in Liverpool.
They are planning a superhero themed 10-mile bike ride during the summer to smash their £500 fundraising target for the year.
Store manager Michelle Alexander said: “We’ve recently moved on to the high street and it’s a much more visible location. It’s a bigger and much nicer shop.
“The customers are loving it and have said how fresh it looks. Each year we pick a charity to raise money for and this time around we wanted to help the homeless.
“We’re all lucky we’ve got homes to go back to after work but so many people are not as fortunate. It just doesn’t seem right.
“So, as part of this, we are supporting Charles Thompson’s Mission. I knew about the charity and what they do.
“I’d seen on Facebook that they were asking for anyone who would be willing to be a collection point so initially we got a tin on the counter for cash donations.
“Then I thought why not combine our charity work with them? With having such a visible store now we could become a drop-off point for small items.
“We don’t have loads of storage space at the shop but we are perfectly placed to receive smaller items such as underwear, socks, hats, gloves and toiletries.”
Hays Travel North West, which is the UK’s fastest growing independent travel agency, asks each of its stores to generate at least £500 for a chosen charity every year.
Don Bircham, Hays Travel North West Managing Director, said he was proud of his team in Wallasey for doing their bit to help vulnerable people in the community.
He said: “It’s been a great idea of Michelle and the team to use the relocation and refurbishment of our Wallasey store to combine it with their charity efforts for the year.
“We ask all of our 36 branches to choose a chosen cause each year and raise as much money and awareness as they can. Becoming a drop-off point for Charles Thompson’s Mission is a fantastic way to do this and I know the store’s loyal customers will do everything they can to support them.”
Liam Mongey, assistant manager at Charles Thompson’s Mission, says the support from staff at Hays Travel Wallasey is invaluable.
He said: “It’s fantastic that Hays Travel are doing this for us. We need that support. We’re a charity that relies on donations but we don’t go asking for it.
“Underwear, socks, toiletries, smaller items like that are always helpful. New, clean items such as these are the sorts of essential things which we can all take for granted and can make a big difference for people coming to us for help.”
Liam explained more about what the mission provides and added: “We do a breakfast which is mainly for rough sleepers between 7-9am and then from 9am-1pm we’re here for anyone who is down on their luck and who need food.
“Where ever we can help, we will. We can provide food, clothes bags and a place to shower.
“We have a hairdresser who comes in on a Thursday and Friday, an NHS nurse on Mondays and Fridays and we also have an optician and chiropodist so we cover quite a few bases.
“We’re also a Christian charity so we make sure to get the gospel message across.”
One of those who has benefited from Charles Thompson’s Mission is father-of-three Paul Upton who became homeless last year.
The 54-year-old, who is a recovering alcoholic, had been a carer for his mum for four years but when she died and the family home was sold, resulting in Paul moving into a flat in Rock Ferry, his life spiralled out of control.
The former HGV driver said: “It all went downhill from that point, living in that flat on my own. I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t realise how badly it affected me losing my mum.
“I got into drinking, lost my flat and ended up on the street. I’d got served with my eviction notice and instead of sorting it out I buried my head in the sand.
“I was using shelters rather than sleeping rough and it was then when someone said do you know about Charles Thompson’s Mission.
“They’ve been a massive support to me ever since. You feel guilty taking clothes and food because you’re used to paying for things, but you go there and they’re more than happy to help.”
Paul, who has a room at accommodation-based support service Rose Brae in Birkenhead and eventually plans to have his own flat and return to work, is enjoying helping out as a volunteer at Charles Thompson’s Mission.
He said: “I really needed something to do as I was just killing time and really didn’t want to go back down the road of drink.
“I sort the clothes out when we get donations. We’ve got a stock room and I go through what’s appropriate and what we need to keep.
“It’s great that Hays Travel are going to be a drop-off point for donations. I know first hand how important clothing in particular can be.
“Recently a lad came in and said literally what I’ve got on is all I’ve got. So I found him some jeans, trainers, T-shirts and jumpers.
“He knew I was into the band AC/DC and came back in one day with three CDs for me to say thank you. I was nearly in tears.
“I’m not an emotional person but I realised doing that for this lad made his day. Charles Thompson’s Mission has been a God send for me and it will be for other people too.”
Charles Thompson’s Mission was founded by philanthropist Charles Thompson in the late 19th Century to help children living in poverty in those days.
The charity now specialises in providing food, clothing, furniture, care and support to the poor and homeless of Wirral.
For more information about Charles Thompson’s Mission, go to www.charlesthompsonsmission.org.uk or call 0151 647 7303.