Residents at a Salvation Army hostel in Huntingdon have designed Christmas cards for families and individuals who will be supported by the charity this Christmas.

Staff and residents at Kings Ripton Court Lifehouse, a residential centre for young people aged 16-25 who are homeless, stepped in to help when Salvation Army churches around Cambridgeshire were looking for a special design for their official Christmas card.

A competition was organised and the winning design by 20-year-old Louise will be professionally printed and sent out alongside toy and food parcels and as a 'thank you' to local supporters of the Salvation Army.

Last year, Salvation Army churches in Cambridgeshire provided more than 1,000 toy parcels and nearly 500 food parcels for families in need, while on Christmas Day, volunteers served Christmas dinner to more than 150 people who may have otherwise been on their own.

Alison Metcalfe, service manager of Kings Ripton Court Lifehouse, said: "We are always looking for opportunities to work with local Salvation Army churches on community projects and this was a great way for our residents to show their potential and shine.

"They were so excited by the prospect of the winning design being professionally printed and sent to other people who are in need this Christmas.

"We regularly offer creative arts sessions at the Lifehouse for the residents, many of whom are facing mental health issues. Volunteers from local Salvation Army churches run sewing and flower arranging classes. We find that art and crafts in particular can help the residents reduce levels of depression and anxiety while increasing their confidence and self-esteem.

"We try and make Christmas extra special at the Lifehouse. Each resident will get a festive food parcel and a present, something which is often made possible through generous donations from the local community.

"We put the Christmas decorations up together, we take the residents and staff out for a meal together, we go ice skating, have movie nights and baking sessions and even sing carols round the tree with the Salvation Army brass band from Cambridge. Christmas Day includes the traditional lunch for all the residents who can't be with family and friends.

"When the adverts and shops are all shouting about the importance of family, we try and be a family to those in our care."

Members of the public in Cambridgeshire are encouraged to support The Salvation Army this Christmas by either donating to the church and charity's Christmas appeal, which helps keep homelessness services like Kings Ripton Court Lifehouse open, or by adding an extra toy to their shopping list and taking it to The Salvation Army in Mill Road, Cambridge, Bourges Boulevard, in Peterborough or John Thompson Road, in Wisbech. The Salvation Army will then distribute the toys to families struggling to buy a gift for their children with the help of social services to make sure there is a small surprise under their Christmas tree this year.

Major Gary Chaundy, church leader of Peterborough Citadel Salvation Army, said: "During the festive season, when many are enjoying celebrations with friends and family, others are struggling to make ends meet.

"The Christmas Story inspires us as a church to reach out to those in need, so we, along with our friends in Cambridge and Wisbech, are running a Christmas present appeal again this year to ensure every family can enjoy some festive treats.

"It's wonderful to see children's faces light up when they open their Christmas presents. If you have children, grandchildren, or young people you support, think of what they might like in their Christmas stocking and consider buying an extra present and donating it. We're asking for brand-new toys or gifts so the families we support feel extra special."

For anyone wanting to celebrate Christmas with The Salvation Army, Salvation Army churches are holding carol services throughout December and Salvation Army brass bands will be carolling in the streets in Cambridgeshire.

To donate to the Christmas appeal, visit salvationarmy.org.uk or call 020 7367 4800.