A GLASGOW community hub has been forced to defend its actions after receiving backlash for cancelling its Santa's grotto.

Gowanbank Hub, based in Pollok, announced over the weekend it would be cancelling the festive meet and greet due to concerns about rising Omicron cases.

Billy Coull, one of the three trustees and co-founders of the organisation, said: “Initially we were putting on a Santa’s grotto for local children who are disadvantaged and vulnerable, and sending out selection boxes.

“But we were worried and concerned about the Omicron virus – the ‘no Chrimbo’ virus as we call it.

“We decided that having too many people in and out seeing Santa would be a risk we would not want to take.

"The main reason is to safeguard us, our service users, and the wider community.”

READ MORE: Tens of thousands of people in Glasgow offered crisis support in last 7 months

But despite assuring that they would continue to distribute food parcels, fuel vouchers and the selection boxes, the team has felt forced to defend themselves against negative comments questioning their actions.

One user commented on Gowanbank’s Twitter page shortly after the announcement: “So what happened to all the donations of toys if Santa is only giving out selection boxes?”

Billy said: “Some people on social media have questioned us and our integrity as an organisation, asking about presents as if we are going to keep them for ourselves.

"In my office, I can’t move for donations of toys.”

“These are people who have never stepped foot in our doors or used our services despite numerous invites from us.

“We are all about helping people in the community and enabling organisations to work together. We are a hub, a crisis support centre.

“We work with local nurseries, schools and everywhere you will find people in crises and families who are in need.”

Gowanbank Hub was created in February 2021 by Billy, Dawn Peart and Leeann Jackson from Gowanbank Primary School's parent council.

The non-profit organisation supports vulnerable people and families across south west Glasgow with food parcels, hygiene packs and other emergency aid. Glasgow Times: Feature for Glasgow Times about the Gowanbank Hub community group on Peat Road, Nitshill, Glasgow. Pictured are unpaid volunteer directors of Gowanbank Hub, from left- Billy Coull, Dawn Peart and Leeann Jackson. They are pictured packing food and

The decision to cancel Santa's grotto has devastated the team, who put a considerable amount of work into preparing it.

Billy added: “When the announcements were made, the team were angry and frustrated. When we had to cancel Santa’s grotto, they were distraught.

“My co-workers, Leeann and Dawn, were very upset.

"They have really put their backs into it and were responsible for arranging Santa, donations, logistics and all the hard work.

"It was horrific to watch their reaction.”

READ MORE: Gowanbank Hub helps to feed hundreds of people in South Side

Gowanbank Hub updates the community on their efforts with regular posts, and this is not the first time they have defended themselves on social media.

Billy said: “Last month we donated a Segway as part of a toy hamper to a family who had nothing.

"Someone commented asking if it was a family member of friend that we gave it to.”  

Despite the negative comments, Gowanbank have been overwhelmed with the positive support for their decision.

Billy added: “Even though there are people putting a question mark over what we do, the people who matter to us support us and their support shows how well we are trusted by the community.

“We have come from nothing more than a storage cupboard and a £100 voucher to helping 40,000 people in Glasgow in a matter of months."

"We are still a new organisation but we have become known to the communities of southwest Glasgow and we will prevail, despite wicked or horrible remarks.”

More information can be found about Gowanbank Hub HERE