Members of Southwark Circle gathered at Camberwell Bus Garage last week to celebrate the launch of their Christmas campaign called "No More Socks".
The adverts are now appearing on buses across Southwark, urging people to buy older friends and relatives more useful gifts than the predictable presents of tartan socks and bubble bath.
"We've all got drawers full of ties" said Stan Hardy. "This year we're saying 'if you're going to spend your money, spend it on something we want'."
With placards bearing slogans like "Not Another Tie!" and "Yes to Internet Lessons", Southwark Circle members are asking for more practical gifts – like lessons on how to use a webcam to stay in touch with friends and family.
Southwark Circle gifts draw on local resources to provide a flexible helping hand with everyday task, through reliable neighbourhood helpers.
Recipients of the gifts immediately become part of the Southwark Circle community, which acts as a social network for meeting people with similar interests and reconnecting with what's going on in their neighbourhood. All Circle members are encouraged to share their skills and experiences.
Southwark Circle has developed a range of practical gift sets that people can buy older friends and relatives. Some of the packs focus on daily practical tasks, like "A New Look" that offers neighbourly help with jobs in the house, or "The Great Outdoors" that includes a garden tidy, front-door repaint or other DIY jobs outside the home.
Other gifts offer support with using technology, like "In Touch" that features Internet and Skype lessons, or "New Memories" that helps with using digital cameras and other photography equipment. "Out and About" gives recipients the chance to join informal trips to the museums, the theatre, the races or outings to other London destinations.
"Southwark Circle was launched to help members lead the life they wanted to lead, so it's no surprise that they feel membership is more useful than a new pair of socks," says managing director Daniel Dickens. "I only hope the sons, daughters, brothers and sisters of Southwark get the message in time!"
The campaign will be featured on hundreds of buses all over Southwark, throughout libraries, leisure centres and local markets, as well as at Southwark Council's new HQ on Tooley Street and in other major employers in the borough.
The packs are priced at £30 each for a themed gift, or £99 for a year's full membership to Southwark Circle. They are available for purchase online at www.southwarkcircle.org.uk/gifts.htm or by calling 0800 112 3441.
Southwark Circle is a social enterprise set up by the Tanner Street-based Participle organisation. It is receiving a £1 million grant from Southwark Council over three years. Its members. Southwark Circle's members are primarily residents of Southwark over 50 years of age.
The initiative was championed by Conservative leader David Cameron in his speech to the party's spring conference in April.
"In the London Borough of Southwark, a new social enterprise called Southwark Circle is delivering vastly improved care services for less money designed by elderly people for elderly people using local social networks to bring real improvements to people's lives," said Mr Cameron.
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