AS the countdown begins to turkey, pigs in blankets and all the trimmings, an Oxford charity needs your help to make sure everyone can enjoy a real Christmas lunch.

Many people will not be able to enjoy a festive feast this year due to a variety of reasons including homelessness, addiction and unemployment.

Oxford employment charity and social enterprise Aspire wants to change that and today launches its festive appeal to give everyone 'A Place at the Table' this Christmas.

The charity works towards social inclusion across a number of projects and this year wants to bring it all together over one big Christmas lunch at Rose Hill Community Centre, 11 days before the big day itself.

Last year the charity worked with more than 1,000 people from across the county and believes every one of those people deserve a place at the table this Christmas – but needs £8,000 to help to make it happen.

Mark Gallagher, of Aspire, said: "Christmas is usually a time of celebration and joy, but there are hundreds of people across Oxfordshire facing this Christmas alone.

"They may be homeless, single parents, people in recovery or those who are long-term unemployed and living in poverty.

"Aspire supports these people all year round, and this Christmas we want to make sure that they all have a place at the table."

The charity is planning to host the lunch on December 14 for all its clients to come together and celebrate the festivities as a family.

It is being run along with partner organisations Camerados, Oxford Homeless Project and Rose Hill Regeneration Project.

Aspire is appealing for donation from the community to help fund the event as well as looking for people to donate small presents to be handed out to clients who may otherwise not be celebrating the festive season with family.

The charity launched its Through the Gate programme this year to help offenders get back into employment and cut the re-offending rate, which at HMP Bullingdon near Bicester is 61 per cent.

The charity has a number of social enterprises covering maintenance, ground maintenance and recycling services which during 2016/17 supported 183 people who on average had been out of work for 5.2 years.

One trainee, Terry Thomas, who is also an ex-offender who served time in HMP Bullingdon, left prison and joined Aspire doing gardening two days a week.

Gradually building it up, Mr Thomas moved on to fencing working regularly with Pembroke College and now has a permanent job with University College Oxford doing maintenance.

He said: "You get out of prison and it's a new city so you don't have anyone, and you can feel quite alienated.

"But what I found with Aspire was they will help you with anything you need to get into employment."

Of those who took part in the Through the Gate Programme, only one per cent went on to re-offend and 30 per cent were supported into paid employment.

The charity works to support anyone from disadvantaged backgrounds get back into work and last year its clients generated £429,000 by completing 6,421 days work.

It also runs a community transport bus for the elderly, who otherwise would often be unable to leave their homes, completing 5,567 journeys over the past year.

Mr Gallagher added: "Funds raised through this campaign will enable Aspire to continue providing the long-term, specialist employment support which is crucial in addressing the root causes of poverty and disadvantage here in Oxford."

To donate to Aspire's Place at the Table appeal and its ongoing support services see