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Lavenham's Cock Horse Inn launches community pantry project to help make Christmas special for struggling households





A Suffolk pub’s community pantry project has rallied the collective festive spirit to help give struggling families a special Christmas as household finances feel the squeeze more than ever.

The Cock Horse Inn in Lavenham is accepting donations for Operation Community Christmas Pantry, a charitable initiative set up in response to the cost-of-living crisis.

Donations received will be used to create Christmas hamper bags, which can then be picked up anonymously from the outbuilding next to the pub in Church Street, on either December 23 or 24.

The Cock Horse Inn in Lavenham is launching Operation Community Christmas Pantry, which is collecting donations to make Christmas hampers for struggling families. Co-owner Amanda Poole, with Grace Beckinsale and Ella Harman. Picture: Mark Westley
The Cock Horse Inn in Lavenham is launching Operation Community Christmas Pantry, which is collecting donations to make Christmas hampers for struggling families. Co-owner Amanda Poole, with Grace Beckinsale and Ella Harman. Picture: Mark Westley

Having supported the Operation Christmas Child shoebox appeal last month, as well as organising a collection for Ukraine earlier this year, The Cock Horse Inn explained that it wanted to serve as a conduit for people to help others.

Co-owner Amanda Poole said the cost of Christmas is always difficult for many families, but she expects even more people will struggle than usual this year.

“There’s a feeling that everything is a bit tighter,” she told SuffolkNews. “Not just in our community, but the country generally.

“Christmas can be a difficult time of year, because there’s pressure to spend money and get lots of nice presents, adding to the difficulty of making ends meet.

“It’s not just families that have struggled in the past and have used foodbanks before. There are families on what would be considered decent incomes who are struggling at the moment, because the disposable income is just not there.

“It’s all that extra stuff that makes Christmas extra special, so it would be great if we can give each family that needs it a hamper bag to make their Christmas Day a bit more enjoyable.

“The idea behind the pantry is that it’s completely anonymous. Anybody who needs help won’t need to give their name or tell us their situation. We’re using our external unit, so people can pick up a hamper without having to walk into the pub.

“We haven’t set a limit. We won’t say no to anyone who asks for help.”

To gauge the level of demand, the pub has set up a dedicated page for Operation Community Christmas Pantry on its website.

Anybody who would like to collect a hamper, or who knows someone who could benefit from the scheme, is invited to anonymously tick a selection box on this page, so the business can ensure there are enough available for everyone.

So far, around 70 individuals or families have requested a hamper.

Among the donations being sought are Christmas cakes, puddings and chocolates, mince pies, selection boxes, fancy biscuits and crisps, stuffing mix and gravy granules.

Items such as dried fruit, nuts, savoury snacks, chutneys, canned foods, shower gels, hand soaps and shampoos are also welcome.

More than 40 people have already pledged their support, while Lavenham Pre-School is pooling donations from parents to contribute towards the hampers.

Amanda added: “It has been really heart-warming. We’re all one big community in Lavenham, and people are really grateful and proud to be a part of it.

“This is something that people feel they can get involved in and make a difference to someone’s Christmas. I’ve had private messages already from people who want to get involved, or who need help but don’t know what to do.

“We’re really fortunate that the community supports us as a business, and we want to give something back.”

Click here for further information about how to benefit from or contribute towards the scheme.