Bishop's Stortford Salvation Army and Indie launch £11,400 Christmas Toy Appeal for children and families in need
As Christmas fast approached, Megan Kervin feared her annual toy appeal was doomed to fail because of Covid-19 restrictions.
But the Indie has stepped in to support the Bishop's Stortford Salvation Army corps captain's festive efforts with our £11,400 Christmas Toy Appeal – confident that our readers will respond with their customary generosity in the season of goodwill to help those less fortunate.
The impact of those donations to a family in need was summed up in a poignant thank you to Megan and her team by one of last year's recipients.
"You have made my Christmas. I had no food, no presents and wanted to sleep my way through Christmas so I didn't fail my kids.
"Then you rang and told me I'm on the list for receiving support. When you said 'support', I was thinking something small. You turned up like a Mrs Santa with presents, food, chocolates, vouchers for my dinner and Sellotape. I still can't believe you even supplied me with Sellotape.
"This is probably going to sound wrong, but I love you all and love all those people that have helped you. One day I will help you and pay this back in some way."
This year, the task is more challenging than ever because of coronavirus. Megan's usual fundraising events have not been allowed to take place and the lockdown has made it more difficult for supporters to donate gifts as shops closed.
Initially, those difficulties prompted her to scale down the project, but the number of those in need is growing.
After an initial estimate that she would try to support 54 families, the total has grown to 68 and could increase to 90 to match 2019.
That means Megan could need to find gifts for 230 youngsters who would otherwise receive little or nothing on Christmas Day.
Her shopping list is substantial.
To provide 90 families with a £50 Christmas dinner will cost £4,500, and she needs another £6,900 to provide each child in the families with a £30 package comprising an age-appropriate present or voucher worth around £20 plus a book, craft activity and confectionary selection box – hence our Christmas Toy Appeal total of £11,400.
She has had a sneak preview of the letters to Santa sent by some of the children, hoping for action figures, board games, baby toys, a teddy bear, a football, a scooter, a baby doll and pram, Lego and Pokémon toys.
"Bishop's Stortford Salvation Army has been active in the town for 137 years," said Megan. "Every year we help workers across East Herts to provide toys and food for families in need in Bishop's Stortford, Buntingford, Broxbourne, Cheshunt, Wormley and more.
"We all know Santa comes to every good girl or boy, but most kids also get presents from parents, guardians, aunts, uncles, friends etc and sometimes these 'extra' gifts cannot be sourced without a little help.
"2020 has been an unprecedented year and we as a charity cannot hold the usual fundraising events to help us to help out. We also have to be very careful around handling donations. So this is where we need help.
"We already have at least 68 families identified who need our help this year and this could increase to nearer to 90. We have a goal, but the more we raise, the more families we can open this up to."
Megan and her team also aim to provide a small present, such as a toiletry gift set, for parents to ensure everyone has something to open on the big day.
HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT THE APPEAL
The Indie is accepting gifts of brand new toys (no second-hand ones please) and donations of cash and cheques for the Christmas Toy Appeal at our office at 12 North Street in Bishop's Stortford (CM23 2LQ), which is open weekdays, 9am to 6pm. Cheques should be made payable to "Bishop's Stortford Salvation Army".
Donations can also be made online at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/stortford-eh-toyappeal2020. The total currently stands at just over £6,000, a little over halfway to the target.
The Entertainer toy shop chain, including the outlet in Jackson Square, is supporting the Salvation Army by matching purchases with a donation https://www.thetoyshop.com/c/The-Big-Toy-Appeal-for-The-Salvation-Army/p/537996 until November 28.
WHAT YOUR MONEY COULD BUY
- £5 for a toiletry gift for a parent or teenager
- £10 for stocking fillers such as a book, craft activity or sweets for a child up to 11
- £15 for a gift voucher for a teenager
- £20 for a main present for a child up to 11
- £50 for a Christmas dinner for a family
- £150 for Christmas Day for a family of five