THESE are the last of a staggering 23,000 shoeboxes taking Christmas cheer from the Sheffield region to needy children abroad.
Many of the youngsters to receive the boxes of festive joy - packed full of gifts by big-hearted families, workers and organisations - will never have had a present before.
The final shipment of Operation Christmas Child boxes, was dispatched from the Banner Cross collection centre of charity Samaritan’s Purse yesterday.
The boxes are bound for Swaziland, the Crimea and Belarus, Bosnia, Kenya, Kosova and Romania, among others.
Volunteer Alan Titman said: “This is the 21st year the appeal has run in the UK and last year we sent out £1.2 million boxes - we’re hoping to match that again.”
Members of The Rotary Club of Sheffield Vulcan donated 500 man hours to the project and collected boxes from churches, schools, individuals, firms and even an undertaker.
Every week day, three volunteers climbed into a van to make pick ups from all over the region and bring the boxes back to Sheffield.
“This is an appeal Sheffield Vulvan has been involved in for at least six years,” said Tony Cosens, chairman of the community service committee.
“We do enjoy doing it and it’s a community appeal that is very valuable.
“Some children who receive boxes have never had a Christmas present before and just receiving the box covered in festive paper is good enough without them even realising there is something inside.”
Jane Simmonds, regional manager of Samaritans Purse, said: “It really is going to put a smile on their faces.
“This year with the recession people have their own problems to deal with, but they’ve still been so generous.”
n TWO kind-hearted schoolgirls had a birthday party with a difference - when they donated all their gifts to Operation Christmas child.
Caitlyn Hawley and Ellie Cowley, who both turned eight this week, had a joint party but asked their friends to make shoeboxes instead of buying them presents.
The girls are both pupils at Treeton C of E Primary School.
Caitlyn’s mum, Claire said: “The girls wanted a joint party and we thought it would be lovely for them but they ended up with a list of around 40 children they wanted to invite and the thought of each one bringing a present didn’t seem right when there are so many children out there who have nothing.
“Caitlyn’s grandparents help out every year with the shoebox appeal - helping to check and pack the boxes that are sent abroad - so we know how important they are to the children who receive them.
“For many, the shoeboxes are the only possessions in the world the children have.
“Caitlyn and Ellie’s school has donated boxes before so the girls knew all about the appeal and were really happy to ask friends to donate a box instead of buying a present.
“We are really grateful to everyone who took the time to pack a box - they really do mean such a lot to the children who receive them.”
Alan said: “The boxes mean so much to the children who receive them and it would be lovely if this idea of Caitlyn’s and Ellie’s is repeated by other children.”
The girls visited the shoebox distribution centre on Ecclesall Road, Sheffield, yesterday to talk to volunteers about the appeal before a lorry heading to Belarus was packed and sent on its way.