Organisers at the Hebburn Helps centre, set up in 2015, say this year’s festive call-out comes with added urgency owing to the ongoing fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
Besides accepting donations to its food bank supplies – non-perishable edible items, toiletries and other essentials – the centre also collects toys as part of its Christmas efforts in the borough.
Co-founder, Angie Comerford, said the December drive had become something of a ‘mission’ for Hebburn Helps staff over the past couple of years, in particular.
"This is something that we’ve done for the past few years and it’s been a mission of ours to make sure no child goes without at Christmas,” she said.
"It sounds dramatic but every year so many famines struggle to put food in their tables and gifts under their tree. This is absolutely heartbreaking.
"The difference this year is some of the families who would usually help are actually the ones asking for our help. This is because they’ve lost their jobs or are on a really low income and just can’t manage.”
Ms Comerford and other food bank bosses across South Tyneside have warned that this winter is likely to be the toughest in living memory.
Other centres in the borough have launched their own festival appeals to residents over recent weeks, citing an enormous rise in need locally over the course of 2021.
Hebburn Helps deliveries for 2021 began some number of weeks ago.
Last year, the centre despatched more than 9,000 brand new toys to children across South Tyneside.“This year it’s going to be well over that [9,000 figure],” Ms Comerford said.
"Usually, we just do the deliveries in December. But, this year, they’ve been going out across November and a little bit of October too, since there’s been so many to do.
"At the moment, we’re not doing too badly with food hampers – although anything on that front would be welcome. But we’re mainly looking for more donations to the toy appeal right now.
"This year we are worried sick and we’ve had to put a hold on our applications. The reason we have had to do this is because we simply don’t have enough to go around.
"Up until now we have already given out thousands of toys but we still have hundreds families in need.
Readers can contribute by getting in touch through Hebburn Help’s Facebook page or can go directly to the centre at Coleridge Square. The team is accepting donations up until Monday, December 20.