This year’s Operation Christmas Child appeal was launched only a few weeks ago, but people across Wiltshire are already rising to the challenge.

The Samaritan’s Purse charity distributes shoeboxes full of toys and gifts to children living in extreme poverty in eastern Europe.

The first boxes are not due to be shipped until November 12, but that has not stopped one church group in Westbury from filling 40 of them already.

Members of the Westbury United Reform Church have been preparing their boxes all year, going out and buying treats and toys in bulk, ahead of the deadline.

Five members of the group spent an evening gift-wrapping all the boxes in one go, so they would be ready to be shipped out.

Priscilla Gray is an elder at the church and has been involved with the Operation Christmas Child appeal for several years.

She said: “Each month we ask our members to provide something basic, like soap and face cloths, or toothbrushes and toothpaste.

“Then, we did toys. For boys we bought tennis balls and little cars, and things like hairclips for girls.

“Then, last month, we did sweets and bought hardboiled sweets in little packets.”

After building up the stash of presents and collecting enough shoeboxes, the group set about wrapping them all up, until they had 40 completed gift boxes ready to be delivered to the charity’s Melksham depot.

Despite the mammoth team effort required in organising the boxes, they have no plans to give up yet.

“Many people in this country have no idea of the poverty going on in these countries,” she said.

“We were so moved one year to learn that one child had taken the paper off her box and put it on her wall, as she did not have any wallpaper, that we now put a sheet of wrapping paper in each box. It’s really just the least we can do.”

Anyone can donate a shoebox to the appeal, either at the collection depot in Hercules Way, Bowerhill, at the Wiltshire Times office in Trowbridge, or at any of of the participating stores across West Wiltshire.

For information, visit www.

This year's Operation Christmas Child shoebox appeal is gearing up to begin, as volunteers across Wiltshire make plans to deliver toys to Eastern Europe.

The campaign will start collecting on Monday, November 12, when wrapped shoeboxes can be handed in at designated drop-off points across the county.

The boxes will then be collected and distributed to charities and orphanages in some of the poorest parts of Europe.

Shoeboxes need to be wrapped and clearly marked for a boy or girl, along with their suggested age range.

It is recommended the boxes contain at least one item from four separate categories:

  • Toys: soft toys, jigsaw, small musical instruments, yo-yos, building blocks
  • Educational supplies: pens, paper, colouring book, chalk, stickers
  • Hygiene items: soap, flannel, toothbrush, comb, hairbrush
  • Other items: sweets (sell-by date by next March), sunglasses, gloves, bangles, necklaces Items which cannot be included in the boxes include food, medicine, war-related items such as toy guns or soldiers, clothing, glass items, liquids, sharp items, novels, or anything political.

All items should be new, and anything unsuitable will be removed from the box and used for the benefit of the charity.

The designated drop-off points for the boxes are: l Bowerhill main depot, Melksham

  • The Wiltshire Times offices, Duke Street, Trowbridge
  • Shoe Zone, Trowbridge
  • Warminster Prep School
  • Warminster Tourist Information
  • Chantry TV, Westbury
  • Tillions, Bradford on Avon
  • Sainsbury’s, Bradford on Avon
  • Shoe Zone, Frome
  • St John the Baptist Parish Church, Frome
  • Frome Valley Cleaners
  • The Gazette & Herald office, Market Place, Devizes.

For further details, contact south and south west regional manager Roger Fenton, on 07900 270 159.