As we enter the festive break, it a highly appropriate time to show our gratitude to the amazing voluntary and charity sector that we have here.

I attended Woking’s Voluntary Sector Fair not long ago, where over 80 groups had taken stalls. It was a real reminder of the breadth and depth of our local voluntary sector. I would like to give a few highlights from my recent visits to local charities.

I have been particularly active in my support of Citizens Advice Woking (CAW) in their efforts to secure their future.  A few weeks ago, I attended their AGM and spoke about the terrific work of their staff and volunteers.

CAW supports over 6,500 residents a year, undertaking more than 30,000 activities to advise and support those clients.

Earlier in the year, I was pleased to invite the Secretary of State for the Department for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride, to Woking to see the amazing work of CAW. He was extremely impressed with the efforts of the team to help residents.  

It was a real delight to attend the Silver Friends annual Christmas dinner the other week, generously hosted by and at Greenfield School. Silver Friends is a local charity born out of a passion to serve the older community and to ensure that no-one should have to suffer through loneliness and isolation. 

There are over 100 service users, along with a large number of volunteers, and the charity puts on over 30 events a year. 

Silver Friends thus provide a valuable service enabling many senior citizens to stay connected with friends of their own age and with the wider Woking community.

At the lunch, I was delighted to speak with so many lively and engaged retired folk and we all thoroughly enjoyed the carols and festive songs sung to us by the children of Greenfield School. What a lovely occasion!

This year, I have, as usual, been working closely with the Friends of Woking Community Hospital, who raise important funds to support our terrific community hospital.

I have thoroughly enjoyed supporting those fundraising efforts and we are all looking forward to the new diagnostic centre being built and then opened at Woking Community Hospital over the next few weeks and months.

I was also pleased to read a lesson at the carol service at the community hospital last week – it was a joyful and rather moving occasion.

I recently visited the York Road Project, who do such wonderful work to help the homeless rebuild their lives. 

I want to take this opportunity to thank all those charities, faith groups, and other organisations and individuals who do so much to support the vulnerable and to help those in need.

A particularly special thanks to the Lighthouse and to each of those charities and faith groups who provide foodbank operations, which are never more important than at this time of year.

As we head towards Christmas, I want to thank all those who will be working over this holiday period, especially in the NHS and our emergency services and those posted abroad in service of our country.

And I wish all the readers of the News & Mail a wonderful Christmas and good health and happiness throughout the new year.