A South Tyneside woman who has devoted 26 years of her life to helping needy children has been presented with the inaugural Mayor’s civic award.
Carol Hall, has become the first recepient of the accolade.
Each year, Mrs Hall heads up the local campaign for the Samaritains Purse Operation Christmas Child - also know as the Shoebox Appeal.
At a special ceremony held in South Shields Town Hall, The Mayor of South Tyneside, Coun Alan Smith, presented the mum-of-two with the award in one of his final duties as the borough’s first citizen.
Carol, who jointly runs the children’s club and also run the women’s groups at Jarrow Salvation Army, said: “It is a great honour to receive this award. I’m very humbled.
“I am extremely delighted to accept this award but would like to dedicate it to the fantastic team of volunteers and everyone else involved in the appeal – from the churches and schools to those individuals who even help to wrap the boxes.
To see the joy on their faces when they receive a gift fills me right up,Carol Hall
“Without them, and the wonderful people of South Tyneside, who are very generous and kind, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”
The 64-year-old, has been the driving force behind the campaign’s success in the borough, helping to grow the number of shoeboxes packed with goodies sent to youngsters in deprived countries from 200 to 10,000 each year.
As well as collecting items, making up the boxes and organising delivery, Carol and her team of volunteers also visit schools to talk to them about the appeal and encourage them to write letters.
Carol, heself, as also travelled to Bosnia and Crotia where some of the shoeboxes have ended up.
She said: “To see the joy on their faces when they receive a gift fills me right up,
“The children we help are just so happy knowing that someone somewhere is thinking about them and that they care. Their love for this ‘unknown friend’ is just so special. It just goes to show how if we all do a little bit, it can make such a huge difference to people’s lives.”
The Mayor’s Civic Award is made to an individual or a group who has made an outstanding contribution to, or on behalf of, the Borough of South Tyneside.
Coun Smith said: “The tireless work and determination of Carol in making a difference to the lives of others is what really made Carol stand out.
“Her civic pride is outstanding and it is a real honour to be able to award her the inaugural Mayor’s Civic Award.
“Her charity work has not only changed the lives of children all over the world, she has invoked a deep and inspiring community spirit in everyone she has worked with. She is a very worthy first winner of the Civic Award.”
Operation Christmas Child was established as a charity in 1990 after Dave Cook, a father of four from North Wales started an appeal to send toys to children in Romanian orphanages.
Five years later the shoe box appeal was formed when Operation Christmas Child joined forces with Samaritan’s Purse.
The shoeboxes are for children aged 2-14 years of age and contain vital items such as soap, wash cloth, toothbrush, hairbrush, pencils, pencil sharpener and notebook as well as a small toy.
BUSY YEAR FOR OUTGOING MAYOR
It has been a whirlwind year for South Tyneside’s outgoing Mayor and Mayoress as they prepare to hand over the chains of office.
Tonight, Mayor Coun Alan Smith will officially step down from the civic role he has has held for the past 12-months.
In a seperate ceremony held within the town hall, his wife and current Mayoress Coun Moira Smith will welcome her successor.
Throughout the year, the couple have described their time in office as a “whirlwind” as they met the demands of a jam-packed diary.
From meeting the borough’s unsung heroes, who provide a range of voluntary groups supporting South Tyneside’s residents young and old, to presenting awards and hosting fundraising events.
However, it was being invited to watch pupil’s from school’s across the borough sing at Durham Cathedral which the Mayor has labelled one of the highlights of his year.
“As the Mayor, you have the opportunity to meet so many different groups and the welcome you receive from them, is humbling.
“They really see the Mayor as someone special.
“Being a teacher in the past and heavily involved in the education sector, I thought I knew every group and every bit of voluntary work going on, in relation to children and young people.
“But I really have had my eyes opened. There are just so many groups out there providing such amazing support - one for me really stood out and that was South Tyneside Ability Football Club who have achieved national and regional prizes. But there are too many to mention.”
But while he has hailed meeting the variety of voluntary groups as one of the highlights of his year, his stand out moments, he says, include being invited to watch pupils from across the borough perform at Durham Cathedra; and seeing the youngsters from Jarrow creating a children’s bible as part of the Codex 1300 commemoration which was taken to Rome and presented to Pope Francis.
Coun Smith said: “Being a deputy doesn’t really prepare you for being the Mayor. As a deputy you might have one or two engagements a week, as Mayor, you have at least two and three a day.
“But it has been a great honour and a great privilege to have been voted by my peers to be the first citizen iof the borough.
“I never thought I’d be a councillor so to have had the opportunity to be the Mayor and to be able to showcase South Tyneside to others, you do appreciate it more.
“We do have mixed feelings now our Mayoral year has come to an end. It has been such a great year, but it’s also nice to have some family time.”