AFTER bringing a smile to the face of more than a million disadvantaged children, Operation Christmas Child coordinator Hilary McFall has packed her last shoebox. Mrs McFall has coordinated the annual appeal for the Samaritan’s Purse charity from its Bowerhill HQ for 21 years, and announced this week she was stepping down.

The charity’s depot at Hercules Way, where boxes are stored before being packed onto lorries, has also closed, with organisers now looking for an alternative location.

Mrs McFall said: “It’s been a real privilege to help for so many years.

“I first got involved after I watched a video of children in a Romanian orphanage, and they didn’t have anything to play with.

“I took it on and thought I would do it this year, maybe next year, and 21 years later we are still doing it. We must have sent well over a million boxes from Wiltshire now.”

As area co-ordinator she has arranged the collection and distribution of thousands of shoeboxes each year, which are shipped to help children in eastern Europe and Africa.

She said: “Whether you have been a supporter for 21 years or just recently, packed a box, loaded cartons, knitted hats, mittens or anything else, can I just say thank you for your contribution to bringing a smile to children who otherwise would have nothing.”

Samaritan’s Purse regional manager Roger Fenton said: “What Hilary has achieved with the team in Melksham and across Wiltshire is almost beyond measure.

“She is a very special person and will be missed, but whether based in Melksham or elsewhere the appeal will carry on.”

Anyone interested in helping can call Mr Fenton on 07900 270159. A coffee morning to mark Mrs McFall’s retirement will take place at Melk-sham Baptist Church on February 1, at 10am.