AN East End charity has told of the difficult circumstances it faced as it supported families through another year of coronavirus restrictions.

Glasgow’s No1 Baby and Family Support Service (GN1BFSS) has ramped up its efforts in a bid to cope with rising demand from struggling parents for the second year in a row.

Founder Audrey Dempsey said the financial pressures and additional isolation were brought about as a result of tough Covid-19 measures this year – and it’s expected to do it all again next year as the threat of the Omicron variant looms.

Audrey said the situation is “grim” and further restrictions will only put more pressure on the service.

She said: “It’s been really, really difficult this whole year but I just will not allow people to go without.

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“The first six months of the year all our volunteers were shielding so it was just me and one other person sourcing everything and doing all the deliveries.

“For me, it’s been about making sure people’s needs are met and they’re not in isolation with nothing.”

This year, the staff launched a new mental health hub and have already been inundated with a “phenomenal” number of referrals and enquiries – the majority of which have come from individuals under the age of 21.

While Audrey herself can relate to the emotional difficulties of the pandemic after losing her brother to the virus last month.

She said: “It’s full on. There’s an awful, awful lot of stuff going on out there right now.

“I think the level of work that’s needed here has helped me because I’ve just not had a chance to process it.

“It’s been a blessing in disguise.”

After Audrey’s heartbreaking loss, she’s thrown herself into 10-hour days at Barmulloch Community Centre to prepare for her annual festive event.

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Since launching its Christmas toy drive in 2017, the charity has delivered more than 14,000 toys and 3000 warm jackets for underprivileged children with last year’s efforts alone bringing in around 7000 gifts.

However, increased referrals mean an additional strain has already been put on the service as it frantically makes final preparations for a December 25 bigger than ever before.

This year, the team at GN1BFSS partnered with the Glasgow Times Bank on Us toy appeal to help eradicate the concern of thousands of parents throughout the city who are concerned with putting presents under the tree this weekend.

It’s the second year the teams have joined forces in a bid to save Christmas and benefited from hundreds of donated gifts, which will be delivered to families ahead of the big day with around 1654 referrals thus far.

Speaking of the campaign, Audrey said: “Each year, we open up our festive appeal for children who are at risk of waking up to nothing on Christmas morning.

“We offer a full gift pack with five toys and a warm jacket to each child. We desperately need support from Glaswegians to enable us to fulfil the needs of these children.

“We know that the city is renowned for its friendliness, generosity and ability to come together in times of need.”

She added: “The families we support are living in poverty and financial hardship and if everyone donated even just one item, we could make their Christmas wishes a reality.

“Demand for our children’s Christmas packs has grown significantly each year and with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic affecting even more families, we are already seeing increased referrals.”

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However, this year the group has faced a new challenge with a shortage in donations prompting them to run out of gifts.

GN1BFSS has had to put out urgent pleas for more toys and warm coats to create its packages.

“I think it’s a reflection of the times,” she said.

“People don’t have the disposable income they once did so they’re hanging on to their own coats a bit longer. We’ve run out a couple of times now but, thankfully, have had emergency donations to pull us through.”

Referrals for Christmas assistance are still pouring into Audrey and her team of 13 volunteers with just days to go before December 25.

To help, send your toy and coat donations to the community centre before the end of the week.

Audrey said: “I keep thinking ‘I should probably just go home’ but I can’t leave facing a child going without. What’s one more hour for me to make sure everyone has a Christmas?”