Ballyhackamore’s Star of the North LOL 1053 are gearing up to spread some festive cheer with the delivery of over 140 ‘Coffee at Christmas’ parcels in the local community, along with the donation of large food hampers to local nursing homes and families in need following a particularly difficult year.

The latest community intervention initiative comes following the announcement that Alderman Frank McCoubrey, Lord Mayor of Belfast will award the Lodge with the Mayor’s Commendation for their efforts in East Belfast during the first Coronavirus lockdown.

Paul McMichael, Star of the North LOL 1053 said:

“Much like the work carried out earlier in the year, the ‘Coffee at Christmas’ project is the result of the circuit breaker lockdown, as well as the general gloominess created by the pandemic.”

“In partnership with Preston LOL 870 once again, and along with new partners Beersbridge Road LOL 891, we hope to bring some Christmas cheer to those having a particularly difficult time; and to that end we have committed to distribute over 140 ‘Coffee at Christmas’ parcels to those in need in East Belfast.”

“Furthermore, we plan to redouble our efforts to help nursing homes with the donation of large scale food hampers, along with deliveries to a number of very disadvantaged families to ensure that they have supplies to get them through the Christmas period.”

Reacting to the news that Star of the North will receive the Mayor’s Commendation for their efforts, Paul McMichael said

“The Lord Mayor’s commendation is a tremendous honour for everyone who was involved in our initial Coronavirus donation drive, and we must pay particular tribute to Cllr Sonia Copeland from Belfast City Council, who brought the story of our volunteers’ efforts to the Lord Mayor himself.”

“This Saturday 5th December, the Lord Mayor will safely meet with some of the team, and he together with Cllr Tommy Sandford- who is pulling out all the stops and dressing up as Santa- will deliver the First Hamper on behalf of the Coffee at Christmas team.”

“Whilst the commendation is a wonderful acknowledgement of our volunteers and those who dug deep and donated, it is by no means the reason we do what we do.”

“We are committed to being a force for good in the community of East Belfast, and will continue to do whatever we can to serve the needs of local people for as long as it takes to emerge on the other side of this pandemic and beyond.”

Back in March, Star of the North partnered with Preston LOL 870 to target the urgent need for support among the ill, vulnerable, elderly, lonely and people with disabilities.

Following widely supported fundraising efforts which saw £5000 raised for the appeal, the lodges gathered supplies from local East Belfast businesses in a concerted effort to inject some much needed cash into the local economy.

For 8 weeks from the 22nd May, volunteers rallied to deliver 164 food hampers, including 7 large scale packages to recipients identified as particularly vulnerable.

Nursing homes in the area and East Belfast’s St John’s Ambulance station were also in receipt of a stock of PPE from the volunteers, with the last hamper handed over by East Belfast MP, Hon Gavin Robinson.

As the lockdown continued, Star of the North went on to do food shopping and deliveries for veterans and the elderly in need of support, along with making donations to local churches and Orange charities, helping local families to move home as well as tackling clean ups in public areas that had fallen into disrepair.

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