Kind-hearted youngsters forgo Christmas presents to help homeless in Sheffield

Most children spend Christmas Eve counting down the hours till they can tear into the gifts under the tree.

Saturday, 23rd December 2017, 6:27 pm
Updated Sunday, 24th December 2017, 3:20 pm
The Woodliff children with some of the presents due to be handed out. Holly is on the far right, Isabelle is at the back with Sapphire on her lap, Lewis is on the left and Ruben is in the middle at the front

Not this family in Sheffield, though, whose children - aged as young as three - are forgoing their usual haul of presents to help those spending Christmas on the city's streets.

Georgina Woodliff, her husband John and their two eldest children, from Shiregreen, will this evening deliver gifts to those sleeping rough in the city centre, in an attempt to spread some festive cheer.

The haul of gifts for homeless people this year takes up most of the family's living room

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All five of their children have spent the last few weeks wrapping and bagging up the presents, ready to be delivered - and they even volunteered to receive fewer gifts themselves so their parents had more to spend on homeless people.

It has become an annual tradition for the Woodliffs, initiated two years ago by their second eldest daughter Holly, then aged nine, who couldn't bear the thought of anyone waking up with nothing on Christmas Day.

It all started when her father, who was working as a doorman on West Street, in the city centre, told her about the people he saw without a roof over their heads.

"Holly got really upset and kept saying everyone should open a present on Christmas morning. She saved up her money and asked us to buy some chocolates so she could wrap them up for the homeless people," said Georgina, aged 33, who is a support worker for people with disabilities.

The haul of gifts for homeless people this year takes up most of the family's living room

John delivered the gifts alone that first year and the recipients were so moved by the gesture the family decided to do it again.

Relatives, friends and even complete strangers heard of their generosity and began donating gifts, from clothing and sanitary products to chocolates, and even dog treats for the rough sleepers' faithful companions.

This year's haul is the biggest yet, bolstered by the efforts of two selfless primary schoolchildren who heard about the appeal and asked their classmates to join them in giving whatever they could afford.

John was last year joined by Georgina and their eldest daughter Isabelle, aged 15, plus members of the 231st Shiregreen Scouts group, who handed out sandwiches and hot drinks.

This evening, Holly will head into the city centre for the first time as part of a small army of around 15 volunteers helping to deliver the presents.

"We put a message on Facebook asking for donations and the response has been amazing. We're running out of space in the living room," said Georgina.

"The children all agreed to receive fewer gifts this year, too, so we could give more to homeless people.

"We gave gifts to about 30 people last year, and it was such a heartwarming experience. Everyone was so grateful and there were lots of tears."