Belfast Telegraph

Strongman Santa is giving Derry's less well-off a big lift

Act of Christmas kindness snowballs into gift drive for poor

By Donna Deeney

He's our very own Santa Claus.

Gareth McGlinchey (37) has been melting hearts after a random act of kindness snowballed into an avalanche of festive goodwill.

The well-known bodybuilder from Londonderry has become something of a Good Samaritan after he decided to give away his PlayStation and XBox and asked for worthy candidates through Facebook.

He was swamped with suggestions, from children's wards to struggling parents - but also by a large volume of people who decided they would like to give away items they no longer used.

A couple of days later Gareth's home was crammed with all sorts of toys, selection boxes and gifts for children and families.

With presents being donated faster than he could get them delivered, his boss at Raw Muscle Gym offered it as a collection point.

And ever since Gareth has been busy delivering Christmas cheer right across the city.

"I have been completely overwhelmed, but mostly by the level of need there is in Derry," he said.

"People have been so generous and what has impressed me so much is that I am being contacted by people who just want to help someone who is struggling to find the necessities at this time of year.

"People just want to do something for a family less fortunate than themselves.

"The donations have filled all the available space in my own home, but Liam Stewart has been a life-saver and allowed me to store the stuff at his gym until I can get it delivered."

Gareth now spends every spare second he has going through the vast volume of requests for help that have come through to his Facebook page.

He added: "My eyes have been opened to the level of poverty there is in Derry. This is a city which is supposed to be progressive and has just come off the back of the City of Culture, but there are people here who can't afford to feed or heat their families. It is like something Charles Dickens would have written about.

"I have been asked to help people who are at the end of their tether worrying - not just about Christmas, but also about surviving."

Gareth said the response of those he helped was what inspired him.

"Seeing the relief on their faces when I knock on their door and give them a bag of whatever it is they need, whether that is coal, food or toys, just makes my day."

Background

Gareth McGlinchey is a well-known bodybuilder. His goodwill mission began after he decided to give away his computer consoles on Facebook.

He was overwhelmed by the response - not just from individuals or groups in need but also from others wanting to donate. Gareth's home became so crammed, his boss offered him extra storage space. The Good Samaritan says the relief on the faces of families he has helped has made the spontaneous mission worthwhile.

"These are proud people who through no fault of their own have found themselves in really dire situations and they are so thankful to the people who have donated stuff to help them," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

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