Express & Star

Hundreds can vouch for Bilston Christmas treat

They queued around the church pews, looking forward to a golden ticket that will bring them a little extra treat for Christmas.

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Hundreds of pensioners waited for their turn to pick up a voucher that can be redeemed at a market ahead of the big day.

Queues spanned the length of Walsall Street, Bilston, and there was plenty of laughter and chat as those in line patiently for their voucher to be distributed from St Leonard’s Church.

Pensioners queue at St Leonards Church, Bilston, to collect their £5 Christmas vouchers

The distribution of the £5 vouchers took place from 10am until 2pm and saw hundreds of people pass through the church’s doors.

Provided by the Bilston Senior Citizens Federation and the Emma Bussey Trust, the vouchers are for use at nearby Bilston Market.

There are plenty of treats to choose from. Those who receive the voucher can use it at the Meadow Farm butchers and Pritchards greengrocers in the market to pay towards their Christmas dinner.

Speaking in the queue for the vouchers, Mary Berry aged 84 of Wolverhampton, said; “It does make quite a big difference to what you can afford, especially if you’re on your own.”

Pensioners queue at St Leonards Church, Bilston, to collect their £5 Christmas vouchers

Mrs Mary Pittam, aged 77 and her husband George of Bradley, Bilston, said: “It’s gone up from last year when it was a £4.25 voucher.

“It is really important to us and our community because you can get quite a lot for that in Bilston market and it just makes sure you’ve got something on the table at Christmas.

"All our neighbours know about and come here, which shows you how good it is for us all."

Pat Staniland of the Villiers estate in Bilston said: “What I like about it is that it gives you a choice – you don’t have to have a massive joint of meat, you can have smaller pieces of different ones.

Pensioners queue at St Leonards Church, Bilston, to collect their £5 Christmas vouchers

“I’m planning to get some beef and some pork from the butchers along with the vegetables from the other stall. It'll make a great Christmas meal and that's why I'm here."

Councillor and deputy mayor of Wolverhampton, Phil Page, has spearheaded the scheme for a number of years and says he is proud to support it once again.

He said: "I think its popularity shows how difficult it can be for older people at this time of year to afford the basics such as a Christmas dinner.

"People assume that everyone will have a Christmas dinner but we know that is not the case and that is why I'm proud to once again be supporting this initiative."

Andy Foster, secretary for the Bilston Senior Citizens Federation, said: “The voucher project has been very popular again this year and it is very reassuring to know that because of it, so many older people will have something on their tables this Christmas."

Andrew Pritchard, third generation owner at Pritchard greengrocers, said: “It benefits the pensioners and brings a few more shoppers to our stall - so of course we welcome the idea.

“It is the first time we’ve been approached to take part, and we were more than happy to.

“The response has so far been good, who doesn’t like having a £5 voucher.”

The stall has been at the market since its launch in 1973.

Mr Pritchard added: “It is okay, we have a loyal customer base we do our best to serve.”