Operation Christmas as shoeboxes of presents from Shropshire are sent off - with video
They offer a little bit of Christmas cheer sent to some of the children who need it the most.
And now more than 7,200 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes from around Shropshire are being transported all over the word.
They were donated by members of the public, schools, old folks homes and churches who have put together little gifts for boys and girls – many of them in central Asia.
“It’s a great feeling,” Elaine Udakis, Telford co-ordinator for the project, said.
“You’ve worked hard. You’ve got loads of volunteers processing these boxes – to see them loaded in a lorry and to know they are off to needy children is brilliant.”
The boxes can contain anything from fun little toys to hygiene-related items like toothbrushes and soap.
The Operation Christmas Child website gives advice on what items should be left out of a pack.
Processors take out certain items – things like toy guns are not allowed.
But sometimes they find something unexpected.
“We’ve seen note pads, crayons, pens – which is great because sometimes these children can’t even go to school unless they’ve got their own stationary,” Elaine said.
The team have also discovered yo-yos, skipping ropes, teddy bears and other toys.
“Someone even donated a false hairpiece, which is something I’ve never seen before,” said Elaine. “It’s in the 10-to-14 age group, and when I thought about it I could just imagine this 14-year-old girl having fun with a false ponytail.
“If the shoeboxes make a difference to one child, it’s great. There will be more than 7,000 children with smiles on their face this Christmas.”
After a difficult three weeks processing, Elaine said the volunteer team had a lot of help ensuring the presents were delivered on time.
“We opened on November 6 and have been processing ever since,” she said.
“There were three weeks intensive work, with a team of volunteers who were there day in and day out.
“On the day the lorry arrived to ship the presents, we had about 10 guys giving us a hand. From the army reserve centre in Trench and some from Reviive, and our own guys. We worked really hard to get thousands of shoeboxes.
“We also need to give a big thank you to the Wrekin Housing Trust and Reviive because they allowed us to share their premises in Trench in Telford while we were processing.”
With the hard work finished, Elaine will now begin to turn her thoughts to 2018, and to next Christmas.
“We’ll start planning for next Christmas in January,” she said. “Although it is to a much lesser degree.
“We’ll have a meeting and ‘post-mortem’ of how the appeal went. We do a fair bit of fundraising, so we’ll plan fashion shows, concerts and coffee mornings that we’re going to hold. It was hard enough now that I’ve retired, but it was absolutely frantic when I worked.
“Operation Christmas Child takes quite a lot of planning. You have to find premises to have a processing centre, and that’s one of the hardest things we have to do. There’s a team of about a dozen of us that organise things. We all have our different jobs. We’re all little cogs that make the big wheel.”
Operation Christmas Child has been an important project for schools and community groups for nearly 30 years.
As of April 2015, more than 124 million boxes have been delivered to youngsters all over the world.