Santa Shoe­boxes brim with fes­tive cheer

Daily Dispatch - - News - By BAR­BARA HOL­LANDS

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.” —

Pic­ture: MICHAEL PINYANA

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

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