A former soldier who found himself homeless earlier this year has told how volunteering with a Co Down charity has had a positive impact on his life.
Glen Ford, who was born and raised in Omagh, served for seven-and-a-half-years with the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In recent years he was a carer for his mother, who had dementia. But following her death in 2016 and a subsequent change in family circumstances, he found himself homeless earlier this year.
The 62-year-old spent two months living at his sister’s house, sleeping on her sofa, before he was rehomed by the Housing Executive in sheltered accommodation in Dromore in August this year.
Not in a good place in his life, the former lance corporal says finding a volunteering opportunity with faith-based charity Via Wings has made a really positive difference.
“Just by chance one day I was walking past Via Wings in the village and they had tables out giving away free food,” he explained. “I went in and volunteered my services and that’s how I came to be working with the charity.
“They are incredible people. Every month they put out 65 what they call hampers of food for people who aren’t coping, who aren’t getting by.”
Now volunteering with the charity three days a week, Glen added: “It has helped a lot. It gets me out and gives me something to do.
“Via Wings does an amazing job, and volunteering with them has had an unbelievable impact on my life.”
Charity founder Gail Redmond said the organisation, which was set up in 2009, is busier than ever this Christmas.
It is helping 84 families with festive food hampers, providing 40 full turkey dinners, 25 Santa sacks full of gifts for families in need and 100 plated Christmas dinners for individuals who are alone, ill or vulnerable at Christmas.
“This is by far our busiest Christmas ever, but we have also seen an astounding outpouring of generosity from the local community,” Gail said.
“Via Wings would like to thank everyone who has donated presents, food and money to this year’s appeal. It is humbling and wonderful.”
For more information about the charity’s work log on to viawings.co.uk