Santa Shoeboxes brim with festive cheer
THE spirit of Christmas was in the air when hundreds of East Londoners delivered towers of festively wrapped, treat-filled shoeboxes to the Santa Shoebox project at the weekend.
Santa Shoebox East London volunteer coordinator Bronwyn Rielly said community-minded residents had pledged 872 boxes which will be distributed to 10 underprivileged schools around the city this week. Last year, 600 boxes were donated.
“We will bless daycare, primary and high schools which don’t receive other sponsorships in Amalinda, Cambridge, Chintsa, Morgan Bay, Bulura, Kayser’s Beach and Buffalo Pass,” Rielly said.
People who make online pledges are given the age, gender, clothing size and name of their gift recipient and asked to fill their boxes with toothpaste and a toothbrush, a facecloth, soap, sweets, stationery and an age-appropriate toy.
“I have been blown away by the beautiful decorations on the boxes,” said Rielly, who added some giftgivers had been extra-generous.
“They have put bras, panties, sanitary pads, deodorants, lunchboxes and cooldrink bottles in their boxes.
“Some have gone to town and embroidered the child’s name on a bath towel. Some even put all their gifts into larger photocopy or plastic storage boxes.”
Abbotsford resident Noeleen Wolff who, along with her sister, gifted two storage boxes, said she would rather give gifts than receive them.
“We don’t give each other Christmas presents and I’m chilled with what I already have, so I would rather give to two little girls who need things.”
Stacy-Lee Wainwright, six, said she helped her granny pack a Santa Shoebox for children because “they don’t have a lot of things like me”.
Behind the scenes, at the Vincent Park shopping centre dropoff point, Santa Shoebox volunteers were checking the boxes to ensure their contents did not contain anything inappropriate or to add treats to understocked boxes.
“We never remove anything from a box unless sweets are not sealed or have nuts in them or if there is a sealed letter or something is not age-appropriate. We check them to protect the welfare of the children.”
She said the Christmas magic was palpable when young recipients were handed their boxes, many of which are decorated with their names.
“We read them a Christmas story and then we call them one by one and tell them their box was made with love.
“When they open their treasures and there are lots of smiles. It is always the toothpaste and toothbrushes and the underpants that make the biggest impact – the things the rest of us take for granted.” —
GIVING SPIRIT: Santa Shoebox volunteers Ashton-Leigh Scholtz and Melissa Bessenger collected hundreds of treat-filled, festively wrapped shoeboxes donated by community-minded East Londoners to be distributed at 10 under-privileged schools around the city this week