By Rachael Grealish
While Santa Claus is busy at the North Pole his little elves have been working hard in one West Cumbrian town to make sure no child goes without this Christmas.
Egremont residents, Helen Dunn, Daniel Shutt and Kieran Rogers have launched a Christmas Toy Appeal to take pressure off the families who’ve felt the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
Helen explained she swapped her usual efforts for the Shoe Box Appeal in favour of supporting families in the local area and, so far, has received the equivalent of hundreds of pounds worth of toys.
She said: “I usually do the Shoe Box Appeal, I have a little gang from knitters, donators, book bag makers to fill the boxes, but this year I thought it would be appropriate to keep it at home, the response again was and is remarkable.
“We don’t have a great deal of money on board – maybe a couple of hundred pounds – but the donations of toys would probably add up to four or five times that.
“It’s all about taking pressure off people who have had a hell of a year and hope to make some less fortunate Kids have a belting Christmas as best they can.”
She went on to say the group will be doing a giveaway in early December, taking advice for local schools to help all the children they can in need. We will do a giveaway early December and hope to take advice from
Helen explained toy appeal is simply an extension of the ‘humbling’ support shown by the community throughout the pandemic.
She said: “I set off along with a neighbour with what we named ‘Project Hampers’, Orgill School supported 18 Families during Lockdown so we decided to support them further at Christmas by providing 18 Hampers to take a bit of pressure off after what I can only name as a horrendous year.
“We were then also able to provide some pensioners and vulnerable people with a small gift of such as a tin of biscuits, some crackers and a nice jam, for example, but when it went public (I put it on Facebook), the response was incredible, the donations came flooding in.
“We accrued some money by selling some masks that were provided to us by a Family Member and took it from there. We also had donations of food and such which will help fill up the hampers.
“I went into Marion’s Pet supplies to ask for a rough figure on some vegetables etc for the hampers, I came out with the promise of a sack of spuds, carrots, parsnips and brussels all free, and a discount on anything else I bought. I then asked in Napiers and came out with a donation of six turkey crowns from Marlene – again I was gobsmacked.”
The group’s efforts continued as school term times approached and donations of school uniforms meant many parents were able to get the correct uniform for their children, despite delays from companies.
An official group ‘ A La’al Bit of Egremont’ was then set up with the help of councillor Michelle Denwood who runs the ‘Cleator Caring Moor’ social media page.
Helen and the group say the donations and hard work is just their way of ‘giving back to the community’.
She concluded: “The toy donations have been humbling and my reasons behind this is to give back to our own community as what has been an awful year which must’ve put mental health stresses through the roof.
“We just want to put smiles on people’s faces in these times.”
Anyone who would like to donate to the Christmas Toy Appeal can do so by contacting one of the group members or by donating via the JustGiving page.