Generous people in South Tyneside have sent more than 6,800 shoeboxes filled with goodies to eastern Europe to help put a smile on the faces of youngsters this Christmas.
The gifts are now on their way to the Ukraine and have, once again, helped make the annual Operation Christmas Child a big success.
This year, volunteers took delivery of shoeboxes from 63 schools, 45 churches, 20 firms and 11 other organisations.
Yesterday, the Mayor and Mayoress of South Tyneside, Coun Ken Stephenson and Cathy Stephenson, joined volunteers as they packed the lorry and wished the driver well as he set off on his 1,750-mile journey.
The volunteers were supported by 103 Squadron of the Tyne Electrical Engineers from Heaton, Newcastle, young people from the Prince’s Trust, based at Farringdon Fire Station, and firefighters from both South Shields and Hebburn stations.
It maybe a simple shoebox to some people but it means so much to the children who receive it.Carol Hall
Organiser Carol Hall said: “We have had another fantastic year, and while this year has been particularly hard for a lot of people financially, we have had a lot of support.
“It really does surprise you, along with the amount of help we get from volunteers. It is fantastic. We wouldn’t be able to do it without them. I have got the best volunteers in the world, who always go that extra mile.
“It may be a simple shoebox to some people, but the gifts means so much to the children who receive them.”
The annual Operation Christmas Child shoebox appeal, run by the Samaritan’s Purse charity, has been operating in South Tyneside for 26 years
Each year, kind-hearted South Tynesiders have made up shoeboxes filled with festive gifts and treats to help put smiles on the faces of youngsters living in deprived countries including Romania and Belarus, who would otherwise have received nothing on Christmas Day.
This year, youngsters living in a part of Ukraine will benefit from the generosity of residents.
Coun Stephenson said: “The generosity of people is so remarkable, and it’s lovely to see how many boxes are being sent out to children.
“Hopefully, they will help to bring a little bit of happiness to young people at Christmas living in those deprived countries. It does make you realise how lucky we are.”
Since Operation Christmas Child was launched 28 years ago there have been 157million shoeboxes handed to youngsters in 160 countries.