The proceeds of the 2011 Black Santa sit–out will be distributed to 205 charities at the annual Good Samaritans’ Service in St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, on Sunday February 5.
More than £180,000 was donated over the course of the week–long sit–out staged by the Dean of St Anne’s, the Very Rev John Mann, and members of the Cathedral Chapter. The sit–out ended on Christmas Eve.
The tradition began in 1976 when Dean Sammy Crooks staged a vigil on the steps of the Cathedral to beg for poor and charitable causes. His black Anglican clerical robe earned him the name Black Santa which has stuck over the years and is now a festive tradition in the heart of Belfast.
Dean Mann, in his first year as Black Santa, said it was vital that the charities who do so much in our community and abroad continue to receive support.
“As I read through the submissions, the need was clear, and my hopes rise for these organisations, as we see what small sums of money can do in the hands of dedicated volunteers,” Dean Mann said. “My admiration for the self–giving of those offering hours of time and effort for others is unbounded.”
Much of the money donated will remain within the community and voluntary sector in Northern Ireland. Well known charities like Action Cancer, Cruse Bereavement Care and the Northern Ireland Hospice will receive a donation, as will smaller charities including Antrim Reminiscence Group, Seagoe Youth Club and St Mary’s Primary School, Divis.
A proportion of the money goes overseas, channelled largely through Christian Aid.
Presenting this year’s grants are BBC newsreader and presenter Donna Traynor; Professor Alistair Adair, Vice–Chancellor of the University of Ulster, and Lady Rachael Gregson, who is involved in the support of charitable endeavours.
Dean Mann said: “On Sunday February 5 the emphasis of the Black Santa sit–out moves from acknowledging the generosity of those who are giving the money to the charities which are receiving it.
“This is no less important, as we shall look around the Cathedral and see 205 people representing the charities and their work in our community and abroad. The scope and scale of the voluntary work given by thousands of people across Northern Ireland is something I have come to appreciate anew with my experience of being Black Santa for the first time.
“I hope that each person giving of their time and abilities to help others will feel the presence of others doing the same, from Enniskillen to Coleraine, from Kilkeel to Dungannon. “This is not so much a day for praise, more a day for joy.”
The Good Samaritans’ Service gets underway at 3.30pm on February 5.