'We wish shoe a merry Christmas'
PUBLISHED: 22:18 13 December 2017
Archant Norfolk 2017
Volunteers have sent festive goodwill by the truckload from Norfolk to Ukraine.
Well-wishers packed a lorry with 9,585 shoeboxes filled with Christmas presents donated by families, schools and churches across Norfolk.
The lorry is bound for Ukraine, where the shoeboxes will be distributed among children who may otherwise not receive any gifts this Christmas.
The charitable cargo was collected as part of Samaritan Purse’s annual Operation Christmas Child, whereby 16 counties across the country are asked to fill empty shoeboxes with Christmas presents, which are sent across the world to children in need.
Trish Ellse, Norfolk area coordinator for Operation Christmas Child, said it was touching how much thought and effort went into the shoeboxes.
She said: “All we ask is that the shoeboxes are full and fun, but they have been so much more than that. People have really put a lot of thought into their boxes, often with personal messages and really generous touches. It has been wonderful to see.”
Those who donated shoeboxes were asked to contribute £5 towards the project, to help cover the operational costs. In return they are provided with a barcode, which enables them to find out where in the world their Christmas gifts end up.
Last year, Norfolk’s shoeboxes were sent to central Asia, and this year it is children in Ukraine who will profit from the generosity of the county.
Joan Pygott, volunteer coordinator, has distributed shoeboxes in Swaziland and Belarus during previous appeals.
She said: “Seeing the children receive the shoeboxes is quite special. It really is worth all the effort.
“It is so wonderful and exciting, for us and the children.”
Loading a lorry with thousands of full shoeboxes is by no means light work though, and Fred Beckett, who has been volunteering his muscles for many years, thinks he may have more heart than sense.
He said: “My back was knackered when I was 65, now I’m 76 and here I am.
“I think I must have a faulty gene, as I have a compulsive need to help people.”
Norfolk Knitters have also contributed hundreds of hats and scarves to the project, which have been used to top lighter boxes.