Heartfelt gift appeal for children
By Lyndsay Oxley - Reporter
PEOPLE in the dale are being encouraged to help make sure underprivileged children in County Durham have an extra special Christmas this year.
Drop-off points for gift donations have been launched in Barnard Castle and West Auckland to support an annual Christmas tag campaign.
The campaign, which is run by Xcel Church in Newton Aycliffe, aims to give children and families in need the chance to enjoy the festive season. Children are allocated a tag detailing their Christmas wishes. Those wishes are then fulfilled by members of the church.
However, this year father-of-two Joe Metcalfe, who is originally from West Auckland, is hoping to get the wider public involved.
Mr Metcalfe said: “I know how hard it is for people round here and I just thought what is going on round here to help people. An individual tag is like the child’s letter to Santa. When I first saw some of the tags, I fell for it straight away. I thought I would do something to help. We have had a great response so far.”
Mr Metcalfe has set up a total of 11 drop-off points in and around the Bishop Auckland area including one in Costa Coffee, in Barnard Castle, and another in the Eden Arms pub, in West Auckland.
The Christmas tag campaign has been run by Xcel Church for about nine years. The church also runs a food bank and school uniform appeal throughout the year.
So far, requests for 258 children from 106 families have been received ahead of Christmas. These are all referrals and are vetted by the authorities.
Xcel Church team leader for the community Janice Coombes said: “We are delighted to have Joe to help.
“The children always get more than they have asked for but we will be able to give that bit more this year.”
Suggested ideas for gift donations include boys and girls pyjamas and clothing from one to 16 years, board games, colouring books, pencils, footballs, teddy bears, jigsaws, Lego, toy cars, dolls, superheroes and toiletries. Every child receives a selection box and every family receives a food hamper.
Ms Coombes said: “Everything has to be new and unwrapped. We put the wrapping paper and cellotape in the bag so the parents can wrap them. We don’t want to take that away from the parents.
“I wish I could be a fly on the wall of all the homes on Christmas morning to see the children’s smiles.”
Costa Coffee, in Barnard Castle, is open for donations from 7am to 6pm between Monday and Saturday and 8.30am to 6pm on Sundays. The Eden Arms pub is open from 11.30am to 11.30pm everyday.
Landlady of The Eden Arms Cathy Hunt said: “No one should ever feel down at Christmas. Christmas is about giving and that is what this is all about. Until now, I had not realised it was such a big issue in the area.”
Mr Metcalfe added: “I just want to give something back. It does not cost me anything. Just a bit of my time. I want to make sure that every one of these children get what they want and more for Christmas. The kids deserve a good Christmas.”
Donations are being collected until December 5 when they will all be returned to Xcel Church, in Newton Aycliffe, to be sorted ready for delivery.