Father Christmas and celebrity chef surprise families with presents and food hampers at Pendle charity

Tears were shed as Father Christmas and his elves surprised charity ‘Home-Start’ to provide food hampers and presents.

As part of the family event, Michelin Star award-winning chef Jean-Christophe Novelli was also on hand to offer a cookery demonstration ahead of the festive period.

Home-Start runs a local community network of trained volunteers offering expert support for families facing issues including post-natal depression, early childhood development, isolation, challenging behaviour, physical and mental health problems, and bereavement.

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ASDA Colne Community Champion, Diane Springthopre, made Christmas extra special for them this year, thanks to the ASDA Foundation, which is donating £1m. to more than 2,500 grassroots community groups and supporting more than 400,000 people over the festive period this year.

Families meeting Santa

As part of ASDA’s ‘Magical Moments’ campaign to help bring communities back together, the retailer surprised 6x community groups across the UK with the help of local ASDA Community Champions - one of which was for ‘Home-Start’.

Diane made Christmas extra special this year for members of Home-Start East Lancashire. Securing funding from Asda’s charity, Asda Foundation, Diane was able to re-unite the group this festive period.

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She also arranged for Michelin Star award-winning chef Jean-Christophe Novelli to surprise families with a cookery demonstration in the store's community room before Santa and his elves arrived to hand out presents and food hampers.

Many of the families helped by Home-Start East Lancashire – a charity offering support for families with young children going through challenging times – hadn't seen each other since the start of the pandemic, so Diane wanted to do everything she could to bring them together and help spread Christmas cheer.

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Santa and his elves meet local children

The charity runs a local community network of trained volunteers offering expert support for families facing issues including post-natal depression, early childhood development, isolation, challenging behaviour, physical and mental health problems, and bereavement. Families receive the support of a volunteer who will spend around three hours a week in a family’s home supporting them.

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Rachael Tunnacliffe, the charity's family co-ordinator, said: "We can't thank Asda and Diane enough for what they have done. We all were just blown away. It was just so good for the families as some of them do struggle at Christmas. It was a real surprise for them all; they knew they were coming to see a chef, but they didn't know who or that there was going to be a winter wonderland too.

"The families were really overwhelmed. Some of them started crying as they had extra children who weren't there and they were given presents for those children too, so we did have a few tears.

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"After his demonstration, Jean-Christophe got some of the families to join in and make some as well, which was really nice. They all said how much they enjoyed themselves."

Celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli giving a demonstration
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The Asda Foundation provided a grant which allowed the charity to buy some recipe cards which were delivered to families and then they did a cookery session online.

Diane said she was so pleased that she was able to make a difference to those families this Christmas.

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She said: "The whole event was amazing; just brilliant. It was quite moving for me. As a community colleague you can't help but get attached to your groups and Home-Start is one that is quite close to my heart as I've seen the impact they make.

"If they are helping little children, it is still having a knock-on effect with their parents, their grandparents and even their great grandparents, so it's helping the whole communities.

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"Jean-Christophe was brilliant. He was really funny and so warm with the kids and the group. He was just so good with them. The kids were mesmerised by it all!

"They were awestruck by the way the room was decorated too with Santas's sleigh, and a big chair and you should have seen the kids' faces when Father Christmas walked in. You can't buy that sort of reaction. It was incredible – it was so nice to be a part of it."