Al and Jen Ferguson, founders of Dadsnet and It’s The Fergusons social media accounts, tell us all why they give up their Christmas Day in order to spend precious time and deliver gifts to members of the local elderly community who might otherwise spend the festive season alone…
Christmas is a time for giving and that is certainly something that husband and wife team Al and Jen Ferguson thoroughly believe in. Not just for their own family and friends but for others less fortunate too.
You may know the couple, who are both former teachers, because you follow their social media accounts It’s The Fergusons and Dadsnet, both of which they use to open up the conversation around a host of very personal and underdiscussed subjects. These include the complex issues of co-parenting, both Al and Jen are doing this after previous relationships, as well as miscarriage: sadly the pair have experienced seven.
“We started Dadsnet after Jen and I lost our first baby on our wedding day and it broke me,” confides Al. “I was trying to support Jen and myself and I was searching online for advice – but all of it was aimed at mums. At that time I was teaching my Year Four class at school all about how to set up a blog and so it was then that I decided to start one myself.
“As Dadsnet grew, we both started working on it full-time and eventually employed an agent who said it was important for our followers to see ‘the face and the family’ behind the brand. So we started sharing snippets of our lives and quickly found a loyal audience. That’s when we started It’s The Fergusons.”
Jen explains that the key aim with this particular account is simple: “It’s a very honest and transparent insight into our blended family life. It’s about showing what every day, real family life is like.
“We are a double blended family which means we are both co-parents to our children as well as having our own son, Teddy. We’ve experienced seven miscarriages and all three of our children have been diagnosed with Special Educational Needs. Through our accounts we’ve tried to provide as much support as possible around all of these topics because when we were experiencing these issues we felt very alone. I guess our aim is to help others feel supported and less alone.”
The couple’s social media presence has also helped them to communicate to their 30 thousand plus followers about their wonderfully selfless work helping the needy in the elderly community – especially at Christmas.
“We’re so grateful to those people who are willing to support our mission to ensure the elderly aren’t alone at this time of year.”
“My grandad always said how proud he was of me when I was helping the elderly so I knew when he left us we had to carry on visiting others”
But the fact Al and Jen are able to buy, receive, beautifully wrap and then distribute gift donations on December 25 is not just down to the power of social media.
“This started a long time before all that,” continues Jen. “My grandma was mistreated in a care home when I was in my early 20s and it was this that made me determined to care for as many elderly ladies and gentleman as possible. My grandad was also in a care home and I couldn’t bear the thought of him being alone on Christmas Day.
“So when he was too poorly to come home for the day we decided we’d spend Christmas with him. We went with our then six-month-old son Teddy and my son Louis who was ten. Although we had a lovely time together, I was deeply saddened by how many residents had no visitors at all.
“So we made sure we went and visited everyone else there too. My grandad always said how proud he was of me when I was helping the elderly so I knew when he left us we had to carry on visiting others in the home. And so now it just feels like that’s how we are meant to spend our Christmas day.”
When they started out, Al and Jen say they saved up money and gifts throughout the year and then delivered presents themselves. But after a couple of years of sharing the day on social media people started getting in touch asking if they could donate so it slowly grew from there.
“One year we wrapped a hundred gifts ourselves and in the new year family and friends asked why we hadn’t told them about what we were doing!” laughs Al.
“They said they’d like to help the following year and so the next Christmas we had a group of 10 at our house wrapping gifts and making table decorations. We call them the elves!” The couple now have an Amazon Wish List set up so people can choose and buy gifts safe in the knowledge they will be useful.
However the current cost of living crisis has resulted in donations for this Christmas dropping and therefore Al and Jen need our help now more than ever as they don’t want anyone to miss out.
Al adds that their kids wouldn’t dream of spending Christmas any other way. “For us, it’s about so much more than just the five of us and all the gifts. Of course our children receive presents but it’s important for us to show and share the importance of giving. If you asked any of them how they feel about spending Christmas day in care homes with the elderly, they’d all say, we wouldn’t want to do anything different! In fact, in the years that my daughter is not with us due to alternate Christmas contact arrangements, she tells us how much she misses the visit to the care home.”
I ask Al and Jen how they would sum up what they are doing online and they quickly respond that it’s definitely not about personal gain.
“I guess we see it as a way of harvesting the kindness of others and channelling that in supportive community endeavours. And in the meantime, for every person we reach who generously gives a gift to the elderly we know we’re doing good. Their smiles, their laughter, their joy at being around the children means the world to us. Every present and every visit to someone that would otherwise be alone on Christmas Day is worth its weight in gold.”