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A very merry Christmas is on the cards

Fifty million of them will be sent in Ulster alone this year

By Linda McKee

Fifty million Christmas cards are expected to change hands in Northern Ireland this Yuletide.

But take a look around your office - chances are there aren't quite so many cards festooning the filing cabinets this year.

Instead of going to the expense - financial and ecological - of sending off hundreds of cards to clients, companies are increasingly opting for alternatives, such as sending emailed greetings.

Friends of the Earth says that while Christmas cards are an integral part of the Yuletide festivities, sending a lot of cards made from virgin paper can be problematic.

Campaigner Declan Allison advises: "If you're creative you could make your own cards, perhaps using old Christmas cards.

"Or if you don't fancy sending cards, think about making a donation to a charity instead. Whatever you decide to do, have a merry Christmas."

Many companies have signed up to charitable greetings schemes, such as the one organised by the Simon Community.

Companies give donations and are included as sponsors of a full page Christmas greeting advert. They are also allowed to include a banner on company emails linking them to the Simon Community's online greetings site.

Ciara O'Neill, director of finance and fundraising with the Simon Community, said: "One of our main aims is to develop a corporate strategy to develop our work. Companies here are taking on board the benefits they get by being seen to be supporting charities in their local communities.

"This would be the fifth year we've done this and it is the biggest year so far. We have 18 companies which doesn't sound a lot but it really is a massive support for us. We have a target of £100,000 for Christmas in Northern Ireland.

" This is as much about awareness raising as fundraising - there are so many people from so many different backgrounds that are homeless and it can happen to anybody. Everybody needs to be concerned about it.

" The message is still there and the Christmas wish is still there - it's just not on cardboard and sent through the mail. This will make a very big difference in individual lives. Being homeless is probably the most traumatic thing you can face, especially at this time when its much about family and looking at what you have."

Calor Gas was among the first companies to support the campaign and it lets clients know through its day-to-day correspondence that it is doing so.

"We would have always produced a Christmas card and printed them up and sent them to our clients, but we decided that instead of doing that, we would contribute towards this," spokesperson Berni Neill said.

"It seems to be the accepted and the done thing these days. We have noticed we would have a good few less cards now than what we would have had in the past.

"We feel it's the right thing to do at Christmas - it's nice to support that. We are very happy to take that opportunity to support a worthwhile charity at Christmas. We support a number of charities during the year and it's another extension of that."

A spokesman for solicitors Carson McDowell, which also supports the scheme, says: "What we would send out at Christmas is a greeting by email with a note saying we are supporting the Simon Community. Carson McDowell is a city centre business and homelessness is an urban problem which we help to alleviate by becoming involved in the activities of the Simon Community. What we also do is donate a Christmas box of personal toiletry items to them to hand out to homeless people.

"I've noticed a lot of companies taking the opportunity to go down the avenue of email supporting some sort of charity."

Belfast Telegraph


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