THE appeal for Christmas gifts for children and vulnerable families has seen the “biggest-ever response” say staff at Tamworth’s Ankerside Shopping Centre.
The gifts, including toiletries and toys, along with piles of teddy bears, were dropped into a collection box at the centre as part of its Operation Christmas appeal – now in its eleventh year.
Youngsters at Acorns Children’s Hospice plus vulnerable families supported by Pathways Project – especially those fleeing domestic violence – will now receive the festive gifts.
On Thursday the centre handed over trolley loads of donations to Pathway Project co-ordinator Jackie Hughes and Acorns Children’s Hospice Community Fundraising Manager Sally Insley.
Ankerside Shopping Centre manager Pete Barber, who is marking his first Christmas at the centre, said: “I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of our shoppers – my colleagues tell me that this is the biggest-ever response we’ve had to the appeal.
“There’s been a steady flow of people dropping off toys, toiletries and other gifts for these two charities, and the collection box has been almost overflowing with donations.
“I and the rest of the team at Ankerside Shopping Centre are very grateful for people’s generosity, for taking a moment to think about others and help bring some sparkle to their Christmas.
“Since this scheme was launched in 2003 we’ve supported many local charities. Operation Christmas directly helps families in Tamworth, whether their youngster is seriously ill and facing a heart-breaking time over Christmas, or families who are seeking to a new start away from an abusive relationship.”
Operation Christmas is part of a host of festive fun activities at Ankerside, with Santa’s Workshop Grotto – which is open until December 24 – plus breakfast with Santa at Druckers Café on December 21.
Sally Insley , Acorns Hospice Community Fundraising manager, said: “A big thank you to Ankerside Shopping Centre and the local people who have donated items to the Operation Christmas appeal.
“The life-limited and life-threatened children and young people we care for require specialist care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our hospices provide tailored nursing care for each child which includes short breaks, emergency and end of life care. Acorns also offers a range of support services for the whole family to help them cope at every stage of their child’s life.
“We rely on the local community and voluntary fundraising for the majority of the £8 million plus per year it costs to provide the care we do, so we’re incredibly grateful for their support.”
Acorns Children’s Hospice offers a network of specialist palliative care and support to children and young people who have life limiting or life threatening illnesses, and their families. In the last year Acorns has supported over 700 children and more than 1,050 families, including those who are bereaved.
Care is provided for children and teenagers at the charity’s hospices in Walsall, Selly Oak and Worcester, and through a Community Team who offer support at home.
“For families seeking a new start after leaving an abusive relationship, the Operation Christmas donations may their only chance for some festive cheer” said Pathways Project co-ordinator Jackie Hughes.
“The generosity of the Tamworth people does make a difference. For some families, this may be the first Christmas that they will have toys, a safe place to stay and to be happy.
“The impact of abuse within families – whether it’s physical, verbal and financial – affects the children greatly as the abuser’s needs, such as drugs and alcohol, have to be met before those of the mother and the children.”
Pathway Project works to support adults, young people and children, who are experiencing or affected by domestic abuse. It aims to provide a range of high quality services, meeting the needs of abused adults and children, in a caring environment.
Since it began, Ankerside Shopping Centre’s Operation Christmas appeal has raised thousands of pounds worth of gifts for charities such as St Giles Hospice, Marie Curie Cancer Care, The Pathways Project, Meningitis Trust, Acorns Children’s Hospice, Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Barnardos.