Caring minister and young businesswoman join forces to create a special Christmas Day for Burnley's homeless and vulnerable

A minister and a young businesswoman have joined forces to make Christmas Day special for the homeless, needy and vulnerable in Burnley.

A free Christmas dinner with all the trimmings will be served up at Gannow Community Centre thanks to the efforts of Pastor Mick Fleming of the Church on the Street Ministry and Bethany Rawes who is passionate about helping people in the community.

Pastor Mick Fleming (third from left) with Bethany Rawes (sixth from left) businessman Mark Hanson (fifth from left) and other helpers pictured in Burnley town centre yesterday handing our food as part of the Church on the Street ministry.

Pastor Mick Fleming (third from left) with Bethany Rawes (sixth from left) businessman Mark Hanson (fifth from left) and other helpers pictured in Burnley town centre yesterday handing our food as part of the Church on the Street ministry.

Around 80 people have already put their names down for the meal and there are a raft of volunteers on standby to make sure the day is a success.

Pastor Fleming said: "We want to help the homeless, vulnerable, elderly and those in need but everyone is welcome.

"This is about bringing the community together, serving each other and enjoying Christmas together.

"We also want to raise awareness of poverty in Burnley and highlight what we can all do to help people who may be struggling."

Pastor Fleming and Bethany with some of the Christmas Day helpers who are (from left to right) Bryony Rawes, Judith Rawes, Michele Brown and her daughter Martha Brown, Ryan Kilbride and Sarah Green

Pastor Fleming and Bethany with some of the Christmas Day helpers who are (from left to right) Bryony Rawes, Judith Rawes, Michele Brown and her daughter Martha Brown, Ryan Kilbride and Sarah Green

Formed earlier this year in response to rough sleepers in Burnley, the Church on the Street ministry is becoming a force to be reckoned with along with the pastor's charity, Burnley Against Poverty, which promotes sources of help available across the town.

Pastor Fleming is striving for agencies, volunteers and charity workers to pull together as one across the town to make a real difference as he has warned that rough sleeping in the town is on the verge of becoming an epidemic.

When Bethany, who runs her own marketing company, heard about the initiative she was keen to get on board and help. Last year she organised a Christmas Day meal for lonely and vulnerable people at Padiham's Mooch cafe.

She said: "We had about 30 people and it made me realise that I wanted to do more to help so when I heard about what Mick was doing I really wanted to get involved.

"We are really looking forward to the day, we have games and surprises planned and all the children attending will be given a gift."

Bethany (26) will be joined by friends and family keen to help out on the day and she will also be taking her three-year-old son Jules.

She said: "We want to create a really welcoming family atmosphere and make the day really special."

Bethany is now a regular volunteer with the Church on the Street's drive to help the needy by holding a twice weekly initiative in Burnley town centre handing out food.

The group has also been running a Homeless Advent Box Appeal during the festive period which has been a huge success with dozens donated by the public filled with items such as hats and gloves, scarves, toothpaste, socks and other essential items most of us take for granted.

Some of these gift boxes will be handed out at a Christmas Festival the volunteers have organised this Saturday (December 21st).

The venue for the festival is outside Central Methodist Church from 1-30pm. Free food will be served to those who need it and there will be a host of attractions including children's rides.

Burnley businessman Mark Hanson is one of the main organisers and sponsors of the event. He was inspired to become involved after witnessing for himself the work done by Pastor Fleming.

Mark, who owns Quicker Skips, will be bringing along a vintage double decker bus, which his parents met on, that he has lovingly restored.

He said: "A lot of people criticise Burnley as a town but the generosity of spirit and kindness shown towards so many people, who are struggling in life for whatever reason, has made me realise what a wonderful community we have here.

"Several businesses have come forward with donations and offers of help for Saturday and we really hope people willl come down to support us and see what is happening.

"It is going to one big Christmas party with something for everyone."

Saturday's event starts at 1-30pm and the Christmas Day dinner is at 2pm. Anyone who would like to book a place for Christmas Day is asked to ring Bethany on 07703380650.

For more information about the Church on the Street ministry contact michaelflemingaim@gmail.com or Ryan Kilbride on 07562233117 and ryanpaulkilbride@gmail.com.