City hub launches Christmas Shoebox: Preston Edition appeal

Preston Community Hub has launched a Christmas shoebox appeal in a bid to ensure young people in the area get presents on Christmas Day.

Thursday, 19th November 2020, 12:06 am

Volunteers at the Hub have been operating a food bank from their Samuel Street premises.

But when they saw the increasing need in their area with falling incomes due to the Coronavirus pandemic, they decided they must act to ensure local youngsters from cash strapped families receive gifts.

The result is the Hub's new appeal for its Christmas Shoebox: Preston Edition.

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Afeefa Ali, volunteer and an operations lead at Preston Community Hub

Afeefa Ali, a volunteer and operations lead at the centre, said: "We decided to set up the Christmas Shoebox appeal a couple of months ago. When furlough was extended past October we went ahead. Many of our own volunteers, friends and families are now being furloughed and only receiving two thirds of their income, sometimes (there's) not enough to pay their bills. We've seen increased demand for the food bank."

She said many of the people the bank had been referred from the local primary school which they work in partnership with.

Afefa also welcomed support from national company Dunelm - its Preston branch has nominated the shoebox appeal as one of its charity partners for its own Christmas appeal.

Afeefa added: "We know that our own are in need ... so we want to help those closest this year. We've made a commitment to have at least 200 shoeboxes to donate to the Fishwick and St Matthew's area."

Christmas comes early as Father Christmas and volunteers (l-r) Brandee Anderson, Afeefa Ali, Claire Foster and Philip Matthews help with the Christmas Shoebox Appeal: Preston Edition

Boxes filled with gifts can be dropped off from 1pm - 3pm on Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday or Thursday at the hub.

She said many neighbours had come forward to help at the Food Bank and paid special tribute to Clair Foster, Phlip Matthews, Peter Yates and Brandee Anderson.

Afeefa added that in the future, post pandemic, it is planned to set up many community activities at the centre including tea and coffee sessions for the elderly. She said: "Hopefully by this time next year we will be doing Christmas dinner for anyone lonely."

The Hub building is rented off the local Masjid-e-Aqsa mosque which Afeefa also praised for its support. She said: "Their committee has massively helped with this building. We work in partnership with them. We're also working in partnership from the food bank with Community Gateway, Preston City Council, Buy Local and our volunteers. The Hub was set up in February this year and then Coronavirus hit in March - we opted to set up a food bank."

Christmas shoebox donations of gifts for youngsters up to the age of 14 will be welcomed

Gina Croft, assistant manager at Dunelm's Preston branch said the Christmas Shoebox: Preston Edition is one of several charities the city store's community support group is helping this year. She said: "It's been a difficult year for everybody so to be able to give that bit extra people - even in the run-up to Christmas it will be a difficult month in lockdown - to be giving something that will get that extra smile will be great. "

* Anyone wishing to donate a shoe box of gifts can find details of the appeal on the @FoodbankatPrestonCommunityHub page on Facebook. Boxes should be marked with the age of the child gifts have been selected for (0-2, 2-4, 5-9 or 10 - 14).

* Customers opting to donate via Dunelm can select gift tags when using Dunelm's click and collect service at its Walton le Dale store. The tags detail the chosen charity and list suggested gifts for a shoebox. If the shoebox is returned to the click and collect service at the store the boxes will be wrapped and distributed to the charities. Dunelm is also adding gifts.

* Clair Foster, who is one of those helping with the Christmas appeal became a volunteer at the Preston Community Hub after noting the kindness of Food Bank volunteers. She recalled how one day there was a knock on the door and there was a gift of a muffin and sandwich from the volunteers: "When it first opened if they had stuff left, rather than being chucked out, they would knock on people's doors. I thought how kind.

Clair Foster sorts a shoebox filled with gifts suitable for a 0-2 year old

"I live across the road. They just needed help. My neighbour Peter suggested why not come over and help. I did and really enjoyed it and now my partner Philip is involved as well. It's really good and it's brought the community closer."

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Preston Community Hub is helping to ensure local youngsters enjoy Christmas -despite the drop in many people's incomes due to the Coronavirus pandemic