A simple shoebox is filled with hope

Volunteers from Operation Christmas Child.

Volunteers from Operation Christmas Child.

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FESTIVE volunteers are hoping to bring Christmas spirit to poverty-stricken youngsters across Europe.

Every year, Operation Christmas Child sees thousands of packages filled with goodies sent to needy children in orphanages and care homes.

Once again, the project is operating from a warehouse in Sunderland, with this year’s “shoeboxes” bound for Romania and Serbia.

Much-needed items include toys, pens, pencils, toothpaste, toothbrushes and knitted hats and scarves.

Gail Watson, who is helping to oversee the local collection, said: “We’ve already collected more than 1,000 boxes ready to be sealed and packed by our merry band of volunteers.

“Collections from schools, churches, businesses and individuals will continue until late November.

“Hopefully, the weather will be kinder this year, not that the conditions deterred us last year.”

Gail said it was the fall of Romania’s dictatorship in 1989 and the dreadful TV images of handicapped children in orphanages which prompted the start of the appeal the following year.

She said Serbia was a country torn apart by civil war in 1990s, with terrible violence and human tragedy.

“Although the situation has improved in both countries, there is still a huge need to help the poor children who live there,” said Gail.

“Sadly, there are still large numbers of children in many countries where war, poverty and natural disasters have left them with nothing, so we’re asking the public to please give generously.

“Words cannot express the amazing impact a simple shoebox gift package has on a child.”

Last year, more than 100 volunteers worked in the Sunderland warehouse, collecting, checking and packing more than 15,200 shoeboxes for export.

Nationally, Samaritan’s Purse sent more than 1.1million shoeboxes to 14 countries, bringing joy and hope into the lives of poor children, whose lives have been devastated by war, natural disasters and poverty.

Gail said many of the children would not have otherwise received a gift at Christmas time.

“In the past, the people of Sunderland and the surrounding area have been extremely generous in their support of this project,” she said.

“We also want to thank Sunderland City Council for the wonderful gesture of providing a warehouse for the duration of the campaign.”

Full details of the campaign can be found on www.samaritans-purse.uk.com or on 0840 011 2002.

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho

Shoeboxes can be dropped off until November 26, at:

Sunderland: Bethany City Church, Stockton Road, Sunderland, SR2 7AQ; Bridge Books and Music, 14 North Bridge Street, Sunderland, SR5 1AB; Colonel Prior, 1 Moorside Road, Sunderland, SR3 2SW; Croxdale Fast Fit Autocentre, Ryhope Road, Sunderland, SR2 9SU; Shoezone, 60 High Street West, Sunderland, SR1 3DP; Shoezone, 40 Blandford Street, Sunderland, SR1 3JH; Smith Shoes, Sea Road, Sunderland, SR6 9BS; Alternatively, contact the Operation Christmas Child Warehouse on 07905969294, 07947727360 or 07896115978.

Washington: Centre Manager’s Office, Unit A, The Galleries, Washington, NE38 7SD; Shoezone, The Galleries, Washington, NE38 7RT; St George’s Church, Vigo Lane, Washington, NE38 9H.

Peterlee: ASDA Stores, Surtees Road, Peterlee, SR8 5HA; Peterlee Town Council Information Centre, 4 Upper Yoden Way, Peterlee, SR8 1AX; Shoezone, 3 Broadclose Court, Castle Dene Shopping Centre, Peterlee, SR8 1AJ.