IT IS no coincidence that major festivals of light, such as Winter Solstice celebrations, Christmas and the feasting and fire of Yule are centred around the year’s shortest day.
It is cold. Many of us go to work in the dark and go home in the dark.
We are centuries on from huddling around a fire and praying that winter will end, but there are those for whom this is still the hardest time of year.
There are charities in Wrexham and Flintshire working to keep people off the streets, such as Shelter Cymru.
Hostels like Ty Nos in Wrexham provide temporary respite and a bed for some, but there are still some left out in the cold.
Inspired by the memory of Mold man Nino Sorrentino, a group of friends have taken matters in their own hands and will spend the Winter Solstice giving out hats, gloves and small gifts to anyone they find sleeping rough.
Biker Nino died in 2011, aged 28, after a collision in Kinnerton. He had been born on Christmas day.
Nick Smith, 34, of Buckley, said: “The idea came from the fact Christmas is Nino’s birthday. Rather than sit in a pub corner drinking, I thought it would be a great way to remember him by going out into Chester and Wrexham and give some useful gifts to the homeless folks.
“I have the help of some of Nino’s closest friends too, Kevin Blain, 30, of Mold, will be joining me and Jenny Udale, 23, of Mold, who was Nino’s partner for many years will also be getting involved along with many others.”
It is a year and a half since the popular biker died, leaving the community in a state of shock.
Nick said: “We’re coming up on the third Christmas without him and I can’t believe it. It still feels like yesterday.
“I just woke up one morning hell-bent on the idea of just going out and doing something different. This is the sort of thing he’d have done.
“Nino was the kind of guy that would stop in the street and chat to anyone, he always had the time of day to help and always amazed me at how compassionate he could be.”
Nick suggested to friends the idea of collecting hats, gloves, coats, scarves and sleeping bags, and his request has seen a big response.
He said: “The idea was well received. People are now giving me things that can go to people who really do need them, especially in this weather.
“In fact there has been overwhelming support from Nino’s friends in general and from the company I work for, Moneypenny in Wrexham. I posted on the staff bulletin board about my plans and the support has been immense.”
Sonya Sorrentino, Nino’s mother, is donating 10 sets of hats and gloves, as well as some home-made jewellery, as a little extra.
Nick said: “We chose December 20 and 21 as I chatted with Chester Aid to the Homeless, and I was advised that lots of homeless folks usually get respite in shelters and hostels over the Christmas period, so we thought we’d venture out earlier.
“I know it’s only the smallest of gestures in comparison to the tireless efforts of the many charities that work to support the homeless in our region, and we are all aware that these folks need help all year round and not just at Christmas.
“But we’re going out none the less with the hope that we can do some good on just one day to bolster the efforts of those who offer support all year round.”
Nick also plans to offer food and hot drinks and said each recipient will be told why the gifts are being given.
He said: “It’s my Christmas gift to Nino. He probably wouldn’t have known the people who will be given the gifts and to them he’ll be someone they don’t know, but it means something.”
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l Lighting up the dark days: Flintshire and Wrexham residents share their stories of random acts of kindness from around the region.
Mandy Neal, 48, of Wrexham, said: “The Autism Wishes team and I collected toys for the Salvation Army appeal. It was such a nice feeling to know that some needy kids will get a great Christmas.
“My neighbour is a mum with not much money but she wanted to help. She knitted a few things and sold them so she had £6 to buy a present. That’s a great thing to do. That really touched me as I know how hard she struggles.”
Debbie Williams, 39, of Wrexham, was modest when the Wrexham Leader noticed her Facebook entry about an encounter with a distressed elderly gentleman.
When we pressed, she elaborated: “As I pulled up on my drive last week I heard a voice saying: ‘Please help me’. I turned round to see an old man who was confused and very cold.
“I managed to find out where he lived and got him into my car and took him home. It’s a really sad thing - almost broke my heart.”
David Hughes, 31, of Wrexham, said he got into the Christmas spirit when he was out shopping. A stranger in the shop queue tapped him on the shoulder and offered him a voucher she couldn’t use, saving him about £25.
He said: “On my way out I spotted the lady waiting outside and again I said thank you.
“‘No problem,’ she said, ‘Best order my taxi now’. I’m a taxi driver so I gave her a free lift home. I think I’m now allowed to start saying Merry Christmas to people!”
Lindsay Roberts, 41, of Wrexham, has a 10 year old son who is autistic.
She said: “I was just explaining to him why I have bought food to donate to the Foodbank because people are really going hungry and the charities are desperate for donations to help feed them.
“I asked Oliver not to take any of the nice treats I had also included as they were for the children.
“As Oliver has autism he is rather used to helping himself to everyone else’s treats before he eats his own, but bless him he went to the kitchen and gave me three packs of his noodles and said you can have these to give. “It made me cry a little.”