AN appeal has gone out to Christmas shoppers to help bring festive joy to homeless and vulnerable young people in crisis.

A charity has launched an appeal urging people in Gwynedd to buy an extra gift to donate.

Charity GISDA, which provides support and accommodation for homeless young people in the area, has launched three collection points.

They are at the GISDA café in Caernarfon, offices in Blaenau Ffestiniog and at Bethesda Athletic Football Club.

Gifts can be anything from a pair of socks, toiletries, or sanitary items, to a treat such as a box of chocolates, or larger gift like a hairdryer, clothing, blankets, or even vouchers.

They will be sorted by GISDA’s staff and volunteers and wrapped ready for a recipient.

GISDA has worked with more than 2,000 vulnerable and homeless young people in the last five years, helping them find housing or hostel accommodation, as well as providing support with financial issues, mental health support, and life skills.

The pioneering charity supports up to 64 people aged 16-25 at any one time, and currently six being helped are young parents, so gifts suitable for children would also be appreciated.

Sian Tomos, chief executive officer for GISDA said: “Being homeless can be a pretty bleak existence, especially at Christmas.

“The young people we support struggle to get even the basics to survive, so our Christmas gift appeal aims to be able to provide at least something for them to open on Christmas day.

“Even receiving something small like a bottle of shower gel means a lot, and lets them know that people care about them, and they are part of our community.

“We would be very grateful to anyone who can support this campaign, and rest assured you’ll be bringing a smile and some joy to someone very much in need of a boost at this time of year.”

Among the regular volunteers at GISDA’s café, next to their offices at Caernarfon’s Y Maes, is Nicola Pengelly.

Nicola, 21, first came to the charity needing accommodation when she was aged 18, as overcrowding was causing problems in her family home.

She was provided with accommodation in one of GISDA’s hostels, and given support in life skills such as how to cook meals, wash clothes, apply for jobs and live on a budget.

Last year she was among those who received a gift from GISDA’s Christmas charity appeal, which is also supported by Caersalem Chapel in Caernarfon.

Nicola said: “When you are living in a hostel you are very isolated, and Christmas is a really difficult time of year for people without their family around.

“Your money goes on essentials and things that will keep you going for a few weeks, and you really have to budget and save up to buy any treats.

“Last year I got a GISDA Christmas gift, it was a mug and some toiletries, and some other bits like a hairbrush and I was like: Wow’! That’s so nice!’ I still have some of those things today.”

“It really means a lot to receive anything because you know someone’s thought about you, even if they don’t know who the gift is going to.”

She added: “People should only donate what they can afford. Even if it’s something really small and simple it will still be really appreciated.”

Nicola explained she was one of four children in a family of six living in a small three bedroomed house in Groeslon, and the overcrowding was causing relationship problems in the family as she reached adulthood. She said: “If it hadn’t been for GISDA I would probably have ended up sofa surfing.

“GISDA have made my life better. It’s like having a second family. There are people there to support you and they are really honest with you about what you need to do.

“They have helped me learn life skills like how to cook for myself and wash my own clothes. When you are 18 you think you know everything but I didn’t know how to look after myself really, and now they are helping me apply for jobs.

“It’s great volunteering in the café, I work in the kitchen preparing food and also serving. It’s given me a lot more confidence.

“At first I didn’t want to do front of house work, and I wanted to stay in the kitchen but now I do and it’s fine.” She added: “My relationship with my family is so much better now. We are closer than ever, thanks to the support GISDA gave me.”

GISDA says the most common reasons for young people leaving home are because of a relationship breakdown or family disagreement, with the highest risk groups being care leavers, LGBT people and those who are adopted.

GISDA’s finance officer Natalie Caron Rosser is also club secretary at Bethesda AFC which is also supporting the Christmas collection.

Natalie said the youth team at Bethesda FC were getting involved, with their families being asked to donate items, and the club is also acting as a drop off point in the town.

She said: “It’s a great charity for our young players to get involved in because it helps them realise there are people who are not so fortunate as themselves, and that they can do something to help.

“Bethesda is a wonderful community and this is a way that we can support people in the local area, even if people give something small, it will really make a difference.”

Sian added: “GISDA would like to extend our gratitude and thanks to everyone who supports us including Bethesda FC, and members of Caersalem chapel, Caernarfon for their kind Christmas gifts for GISDA’s young people again this year.”

GISDA was established in 1985 to provide accommodation, support and opportunities for vulnerable young people in Gwynedd between the ages of 16 and 25 years old.

The organisation supports young homeless people and their families throughout Gwynedd including single young people, single parents, expectant mothers, couples and families.

The name GISDA originally stood for ’Grŵp Ieuenctid Sengl Digartref Arfon’ which meant Young, Single, Homeless Group of Arfon.

Ongoing projects include supporting young parents, raising awareness of homelessness across schools, finding and providing accommodation for young people, and supporting their transition into employment.

The charity’s various social enterprises, such our café in Caernarfon’s town centre, provide further opportunities for young people.

The charity also provides accommodation for young people in Caernarfon, Felinheli, Llanrug and Blaenau Ffestiniog, along with shared accommodation in Dolgellau.

Drop off points and times for anyone who would like to make a Christmas appeal donation are:

Caffi GISDA, December 22 and 23, Y Maes, Caernarfon, 9am – 5pm Monday to Saturday.

GISDA, Yr Hen Co-Op, Stryd Fawr, Blaenau Ffestiniog, 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday.

Bethesda AFC , Douglas Terrace, Bethesda - Monday 7-8pm / Wednesday 6-7pm / Saturday 8.30am – midday.

For more information about the work of GISDA visit: