Operation Christmas Child, which spreads joy to underprivileged children around the world, has a new organiser in the Devizes area after long-serving Ursula McKinnon stepped down.

Mrs McKinnon, 74, has retired after 17 years at the helm due to her age and her husband John’s ill health.

She put her heart and soul into the voluntary role and the loft of her house stored toys and other items all year round until the shoeboxes were packed.

The new organiser is Janice Charlton, of Drove Lane, Market Lavington, and she is keen to build on Mrs McKinnon’s success.

Mrs Charlton co-organises Market Lavington Old School day centre and knows Mrs McKinnon from when she gave a talk about Operation Christmas Child there.

Mrs Charlton, who has two grown up sons and two grandchildren, said: “When Ursula said she was giving up I thought I would put myself forward. She has done amazingly well and she has been a great help to me.

“I know I will have my work cut out to maintain her high achievements but, with the continuing support of those who have supported her over the past 17 years, I’m sure we can do it again.”

Mrs Charlton previously sent off her own shoeboxes to the charity and said it was a wonderful cause.

“The children who the charity helps are just surviving really. It’s just wonderful to see how much a shoebox means to them. This is what it’s about; about bringing that extra special moment to a child’s life,” she said.

She is keen to maintain all the groups whose regular get-togethers and hard work filled the boxes with handmade items. St Barnabas Primary School, Market Lavington, has spare storage space and has agreed for her to use it as a base.

This means the annual shoebox packing day will be in Market Lavington but Mrs Charlton said if someone had storage space in Devizes, shoebox packing could also take place there. To help or get involved, call Mrs Charlton on (01380) 818533.

Mrs McKinnon, of Broadleas Road, Devizes, bowed out after last year’s record of 700 shoeboxes were packed at St Andrew’s Church, Devizes.

She said: “I have loved every minute of it, it was such an enjoyable thing to do and I met so many wonderful people.

“We had a wonderful result every year.”

She will continue to make and buy items for shoeboxes.