Wed | Jan 22, 2020

Santa all year round - Good Samaritan spreads Christmas cheer in St Thomas, Portmore

Published:Friday | December 13, 2019 | 12:36 AMShanna Monteith/Gleaner Writer
Ricardo Burke of the Yutes4Change charity group gifts toiletries to an elderly resident.
Ricardo Burke of the Yutes4Change charity group gifts toiletries to an elderly resident.

Dusting off his red hat with white fur this Christmas and gearing up his little helpers, St Thomas’ own Santa Claus, Ricardo Burke, is set to feed hundreds of residents in his usual Yuletide food outreach programme.

The project, which caters to disabled and senior citizens across several communities in the parish, is a flagship programme of the Burke-led charity group Yutes4Change.

Each Christmas, the small group, which has been steadily growing over the years, embarks on a journey to ensure that those who are without family get a taste of the love and cheer associated with the season.

While the project doesn’t always take the form of food outreach, shut-ins and the less fortunate can always depend on ‘Mr Volunteer’ and his dedicated team of people to include them in the festivities.

Burke revealed that last year’s initiative took the form of a Christmas dinner for the disabled and elderly.

In fact, unlike the mythical character Santa, who only delivers during the festive season, Burke and his little helpers spread cheer all year round.

“The food outreach is a project that the foundation does every two months. We collect food and toiletry items and visit rural parishes to distribute to disabled and senior citizens,” he told The Gleaner.

This Christmas, the recently developed youth arm of Yutes4change Foundation in St Thomas will be doing its first food outreach project.

The St Thomas youth arm, founded on September 13, Burke’s daughter’s birthday, has already undertaken a few projects, including pampering the elderly in October.

“We combed and washed their hair. We also did barbering for the males and pedicure services,” Burke said.

Now making preparations to serve more than 100 people across six communities in two days, the foundation has launched a food drive to reel in donations of cash or kind.

The communities that will benefit from the charity drive on December 21 and 22 are New Pera, Barking Lodge, Rocky Point, Hampton Court, Winchester, and Cheswick.

More donations needed

Burke told The Gleaner that though they have been receiving some food items, the group is still appealing for more donations.

“We are not the type to sit around and wait on donations. What we do is have our Portmore youth arm go around house to house and ask for food and toiletries. So both our St Thomas and Portmore branches will work together on this project,” Burke said.

Among the other pursuits of the Yute4Change Foundation are the daily breakfast programme for children in Gregory Park and the regular feeding of the homeless.

Also benefiting from the experience are the young people who happily volunteer their time to the cause.

“It’s a great opportunity to be a part of this family. It helps me to express myself a lot more in areas that I am weak. It also brings me exposure to a lot of things and helps me to volunteer my time and energy in things that are of a good cause. I will be gaining knowledge as well as passing on what I know to others,” said Kaskmah Brown of Dalvey, a member of the St Thomas Yutes4Change Foundation youth arm.

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