Meet Cindy Willcocks – the driving force behind the amazing Operation Snow

Dozens of people who are homeless, lonely or just down on their luck will be celebrating the Christmas spirit in style this year – thanks to Plymouth mum Cindy Willcocks.

Cindy is the driving force behind Operation Snow, which was launched in 2015 after she had spent time volunteering at a local church on Christmas Day.

“I had wanted to do something worthwhile and so I went along as a volunteer at the church on Christmas Day 2014,” she said.

“It was great what the church did, but I felt that it was missing the true Christmas spirit. I decided to try an organise something myself so came up with the idea of Operation Snow.”

Cindy’s drive and determination meant that by Christmas 2015 she had been joined by a band of enthusiastic volunteers and had managed to persuade individuals and organisations to donate food and gifts for the big day.

Hamoaze House in Mount Wise – where Cindy had previously worked for three years – made their premises available for the day and the event was a big success.

“We didn’t know how many people to expect, but on the day around 70 people turned up. Many of them were homeless, while others faced Christmas alone,” she said.

“I think everyone felt a real sense of belonging, which was great. We had a hog roast for the first event – and an amazing couple slept in their car on Christmas Day so that they could start cooking in the early hours.”

The following year, thanks to Cindy’s continuing efforts to promote Operation Snow, she was delighted when people donated turkeys, vegetables, cup cakes and a variety of gifts for everyone attending.

“We also had about 40 people helping to prepare all the vegetables on Christmas Eve, which was amazing.”

On the day itself dozens of people turned up again – including a number of families. Local councillor Chaz was also a surprise guest.

Not content with helping people on Christmas Day, Cindy spent Boxing Day touring the streets of Plymouth distributing food and gifts to people sleeping rough.

Preparations for Operation Snow in 2017 are now gathering momentum, but Cindy would welcome more help and donations. “We like to provide useful gifts for the people who come along, so items such as socks, gloves, hats, toiletries and chocolate – but definitely not alcohol – would be much appreciated.

“We could always do with more help, so if anyone is at a loose end at Christmas please come along. We will be at Hamoaze House from 12 noon for lunch and there will be entertainment through until 5pm for anyone who wants to stay longer.

“If anyone knows of people who are likely to be alone on Christmas Day, please encourage them to come along. If they can let me know in advance that would be great, but people can just turn up if they want to.”

Operation Snow reflects Cindy’s heart for people who may be having a tough time in life.

She qualified as a registered mental health nurse in 2000 and has since worked in a variety of community and in-patient settings, specialising in mental health and substance misuse, from birth and beyond.

She founded Arterne CIC in 2013 to provide a range of services dealing with issues surrounding mental health and wellbeing. It’s slogan is ‘enriching the next generation.’

Cindy said: “We support the message that ‘we all have mental health’ and raises awareness about how important it is within individual lives to maintain good mental health and to support the notion of a happy and healthy existence.

She added: “Love is all there is…before you can love another, you must first learn to love yourself.”

If you would like to help with any aspect of Operation Snow please call Cindy on 07554 665461. For more information on Arterne CIC visit www.arterne.com

 

 

First published in the Plymouth Magazine – November 2017

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