On Friday, November 30, a lorry was loaded from Brunswick Industrial Estate with 3,000 shoeboxes from Northumberland, together with 5,000 boxes from Newcastle.
Although this figure is slightly down on last year, it is an excellent effort.
We have, in the past few years, sent the boxes to Romania, but this year from our area we are sending them to Ukraine.
The boxes sent from the UK are given to needy children around the world, regardless of religion. Unlike some other shoeboxes, which have nothing to do with our appeal, we do not put anything religious into our shoeboxes. We call it ‘unconditional love in a box to a child’.
As the co-ordinator for the whole of Northumberland I would like to say a very big thank-you to all the schools, churches, organisations, volunteers, knitters, drivers, checkers and packers who were involved in this year’s appeal, as well as the schools and Brownies who came in to help check boxes.
To all the Shoe Zone shops and Handie Stationery in Alnwick, thank you for being drop-off points for the public. This was a great help to our drivers.
And to the Rev Una McLean and the congregation of the Methodist Church, Doxford Place, Cramlington, thank you again from all of us for allowing us to use your church to process the boxes.
This is the sixth year we have used the church and all the volunteers involved in checking the boxes agree that it is the best premises they have been in. It was warm and comfortable and easy to reach.
We know that this year, because of the economic climate in Britain, many families have found things hard, but once again we have been truly amazed at the generosity of people and children supplying completed boxes, donations of knitting, hats, gloves, scarves, toiletries, stationery and sweets to fill the boxes.
As in previous years we did receive boxes with no money in them so Samaritans Purse does have to pay the transport costs.
Because shipping and fuel costs have increased substantially we suggested an increase of the donation in the box to be raised to £5, which I know some people found hard, but we will gladly accept any donation, £2 or £3, which it has been in the past, if that is easier.
However, this year many individuals and organisations, as well as supplying shoeboxes, have held extra events to raise more money to help with the transport costs to cover these boxes, and for that we are very grateful.
Although this year’s appeal is now finished, I know that the knitters and others have already started collecting for next year.
Our heartfelt thanks go out to all of you who have been involved this year and we look forward to seeing you all next year.
Next year, there is a change as we are not allowed to include toothpaste and sweets in the boxes as we have done in the past. This is because border customs controls throughout Europe are now asking us to say what is in the toothpaste and the sweets. As you can imagine this is an impossible task because of all the different types of toothpaste and sweets so we cannot include them anymore.
This year, we heard of a little boy who did not have very good sight and when he opened his box there at the very bottom was a magnifying glass. He was overjoyed at this as he could now see things much better.
When you open your presents on Christmas morning this year, remember that little boy and know that children somewhere in Ukraine will have big smiles on their faces when they open their shoebox because of the generosity of the people in Northumberland.
If you would like to know more or become involved, please contact me on the number below.
Operation Christmas Child Northumberland