By Andy Hirst

An annual Huddersfield campaign is once again sending Christmas gifts to children living in dire poverty in eastern Europe.

Huddersfield Hub readers are urged to get involved by donating shoeboxes filled with presents for youngsters who literally have nothing … and it would a great campaign for local schools to support, perhaps as a class project.

Since 2006 the Meltham Shoebox Campaign based at St James’ Church in Meltham Mills has filled shoeboxes with goodies and sent them to children living incredibly deprived lives in eastern Europe.

This year the team wants to send around 4,000 shoeboxes to youngsters aged three to 14 in Ukraine, Romania, Bosnia, Georgia and Moldova. It’s a major operation involving 100 kind-hearted volunteers.

Each box is different and the kind of things that can go in them include toys, toothbrush and toothpaste, a hairbrush, comb, hair accessories, soap and facecloth, notebook, pencils, rubbers, crayons, gloves, hat and scarf, new socks and underwear, a small game, puzzle, sweets and a small Christmas decoration.

Donors can make up their own shoeboxes and take them to the church.

Simply put the items in the box, wrap the bottom of the box and the top separately in Christmas paper and then pop an elastic band around it but don’t stick it down as every box needs to be opened and checked at the church. It’s then sealed before its journey to eastern Europe.

Add a piece of paper in the top of the box saying if the gifts are for a boy or a girl and the age range which can be 3-5, 5-9 or 9-14. People can pop a photo of themselves in too with their names so the children can see who has sent it.

The shoeboxes should be taken to St James’ Church on Huddersfield Road, Meltham Mills. The warehouse opens on Monday, November 7 at 10am and will then be open Monday to Friday from 10am until 2pm until Monday, November 21.

If you are struggling to get your box to St James’s please phone Judith Powell, the West Yorkshire Regional Co-ordinator and Team Leader at the Meltham Shoebox campaign on 07954 784317 and she’ll be able to help.

The Meltham campaign now comes under a larger charity called T4U (Teams For You) set up in Wrexham, North Wales, by founder Dave Cooke. Since 2013 it has sent around 250,000 boxes.

Meltham Shoebox Campaign media officer Rena Souten said: “People can either fill shoeboxes all wrapped up for us or donate individual items or cash. If your shoebox isn’t full then don’t worry as we can add things to it from our stocks.

“Our aim is to make a difference in the lives of children around the world who find themselves in desperate and hopeless situations.

“These gifts don’t fix the problems in their lives but they make a difference, showing these children that someone, somewhere cares for them.

“Each box is just a gift to brighten their day and make them feel special. We are all doing our best to give a child a reason to smile.”

The boxes go to children who have lost parents or been abandoned, to those without homes, some who have been forced to leave their homes due to conflict and those who face discrimination in their own countries.

The project leader for shoeboxes in Romania, Raul Gherle, said: “The joy hidden in these gifts can only be told by the children who wait for them with expectation and emotion. One boy even told me he thought his gift came directly from heaven.”

The shoeboxes are packed into large cardboard boxes which contain about 12 shoeboxes each. The large boxes are then loaded onto large lorries and taken to ports for transport across the North Sea.

The boxes then travel by road to their destination with T4U contacts in the countries making sure they get to the children who need them most.

* Copyright for this story belongs to freelance journalist ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire agency AH! PR ( specialising in stories for the media, press releases, blogging, copywriting, scriptwriting and applying for awards.