Tragic death of son led Sandra to be a volunteer

Sandra Thomas, volunteer at The Salvation Army in Horsham, with her son Josh
Sandra Thomas, volunteer at The Salvation Army in Horsham, with her son Josh

A WOMAN who began helping at the Salvation Army in Horsham after the death of her 22-year-old son from a drugs overdose has spoken of the value of volunteering.

Volunteers are the keystone of the Salvation Army’s work at Christmas and throughout the year.

Last year more than 100 people enjoyed Christmas lunch and entertainment at the charity’s Horsham branch and another 100 people received some other form of help on the day.

This would not have been possible without the volunteers and in the fourth week of the Caring at Christmas Campaign, volunteer Sandra Thomas tells the County Times how her experience of receiving help from the Salvation Army showed her the difference she could make.

Sandra said: “I started volunteering at the beginning of last year following the sudden death of my 22-year-old son from a drugs overdose.

“Prior to Josh’s death he had often had the support of the Salvation Army when he was struggling with accommodation and financial issues.

“As a child he had attended the Horsham Salvation Army children’s clubs with his sister and had always had a connection with them.

“After his death there were a series of occurrences which led us, as a family, back to the Salvation Army Church in Horsham and his funeral was held there in January last year.

“Following the funeral I heard of a number of projects the church were running and I felt I wanted to help - partly because I was grateful to the support they had given both to Josh at different times in his life and to us when we really needed it.

“However, it was also because I felt that at a time when I had been unable to help Josh, they had in some way been able to.

“I wanted to be able to offer support and help to other people who may find themselves in similar situations.

“I work for a large charity working with people with brain injuries in an administrative capacity and I find that in volunteer work I can be much more involved.

“I would encourage everyone to have a go at volunteering – especially at Christmas.

“Not everyone will be looking forward to this Christmas.

“It can be a very difficult and stressful time. It is a time when we particularly miss loved ones no longer able to be with us, especially if you don’t have the practical resources and hope that many of the rest of us are lucky to have.”

Sandra has worked with the Salvation Army at lunches and afternoon teas as well as at the Hope In sessions where they provide weekly support, food and clothing to individuals and families in times of crisis.

She said people can help over the festive period in a range of ways.

“You could come along to the centre at Booth Way and do something ‘hands on’.

“You don’t have to commit to regular hours. It could be a few here and there helping to pack food or gift parcels in the run up to the big day.

“It could be doing a bit of driving, picking up or dropping off parcels to various places nearer to Christmas.”

Last year the Salvation Army gave out about 200 gift parcels to families across the town and they expect more people will need help this year.

They are also appealing for volunteer cooks, servers and drivers to help over the Christmas weekend.

On Christmas Eve, vegetables need to be prepared for the three-course meal the following day and on Christmas morning volunteers arrive early to decorate the hall and start cooking.

Guests, some of whom rely of volunteers to drive them to the centre, start arriving from 10am for a short service before lunch.

Sandra added: “You can help by serving Christmas lunch to the hundred or so people who will be hoping to eat at the centre on the day or by being there to listen, chat, help the families and others who might need a bit more support, assistance and company.

“It would be good to think that some people who know they are going to have a good Christmas could share just a little bit of that with someone who is dreading this time of year.”

For more information about volunteering over the festive period call the centre on 01403 254624.