Black Santa sit out draws to a close

Published Monday, 24 December 2012
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The 36th Black Santa Christmas Appeal at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast city centre has drawn to a close.

Black Santa sit out draws to a close
Black Santa's sit-out ends on Christmas Eve, but donations can still be made. (© UTV)

This year's collection began 10 days ago and as of Sunday night, £135,000 had been donated with the Very Reverend John Mann, dean of the cathedral, 'sitting-out' on the historic building's steps daily to raise money for good causes.

This special Santa is not facing the cold, wintry weather alone though - he is being assisted in his sit out by the bishops of Down and Connor, and Dromore as well as the cathedral canons.

The senior cleric told UTV that despite the city's troubles of late, his team of volunteers have been "humbled" by the public's generosity.

"The fundraising is going really well this year - I've had a very good feel about it all through. Right from the very start, people's generosity has been tremendous," he said.

"We acknowledge that it's difficult times, we are another year into the recession and yet, I think actually our collection is more than we had at the same stage last year.

"It is very humbling, we learn a lot from just talking to people and we acknowledge that it has been and is a very difficult time for retailers and traders in the city.

"Certainly I think things have tailed off most days in the afternoon much earlier than we would have experienced in previous years."

However, Reverend Mann says that there is still huge support from the public for the annual appeal.

"A number of people have come to us this year and said: 'Look, I keep meaning to come - I've meant to come for years - but I'm coming this year.' I think there are people that really want to feel they are doing something positive.

"The charities are obviously short of money as well, but it has been that feel of people's generosity. They want to do something, they want to make some effort."

He continued, saying that donations still flood in two or three weeks after the cathedral's campaign ends.

Over 200 charities - the majority of which were local - received money from the 2011 Christmas sit out.

The remainder went to overseas organisations, mainly Christian Aid.

The Reverend John Mann hopes to beat last year's total to raise £200,000.

Christmas Eve is traditionally a huge day for the appeal with many rushing to the cathedral to make a last minute donation.

"Even if you don't get it in [before Christmas Eve], in you can always send a cheque into the cathedral just made out to the sit out and it will all go in. The cheques are actually handed out at the beginning of February," the reverend added.

© UTV News
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