Urgent call for toy donations to help struggling families at Christmas

ireland
Urgent Call For Toy Donations To Help Struggling Families At Christmas Urgent Call For Toy Donations To Help Struggling Families At Christmas
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By Rebecca Black, PA

An urgent appeal has been issued for toy donations for families struggling this Christmas.

The North Belfast Advice Partnership and the People’s Kitchen are operating in Belfast’s SSE Arena, allowing volunteers to space out as they assemble hampers.

Foodbank coordinator Sinead McKinley said demand has been unprecedented as many struggle amid the coronavirus pandemic, having lost their jobs or taken a cut in income.

With shops closed, Ms McKinley said it is not as easy to donate gifts this year.

She said they are urgently in need of toys, from games for younger children to fragrance gift sets for teenagers across 2,500 families.

This is up from the 900 referrals for Christmas hampers they received last year.

“Covid-19 has impacted on families in a way we never thought it could, with jobs losses and people taking a cut in pay,” she said.

“Our list is horrendous, we have had 2,500 referrals for hampers and toys. Last year we had about 900, and that was a big number for us.

“We have had some organisations arranging big collections and dropping them off, but almost as soon as they come in, they go out.”

The Christmas hamper initiative is going on alongside regular food parcels for 300 families every week.

Ms McKinley said as well as those who have lost their jobs, others in low paying jobs on furlough are also struggling.

“I had a mummy emailing me in the middle of the night, and when we got to the house it was like we had given her a million pounds just by giving her food,” she said.

Volunteers sorting Christmas food parcels and hampers on behalf on the North Belfast Advice Partnership at the SSE Arena Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

“People forget that those working in hospitality are on low wages and when they are on furlough their income is down 20 per cent, and (in) some households where both parents work in hospitality – their combined income is down by 40 per cent.

“I spoke to a man who told me he buys his kids their Christmas toys with his tips and there is nothing to fill that void.”

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She said a range of gift options are helpful to ensure older children are included.

“We have also suggested that people shop local in terms of buying vouchers for beauticians, hair salons or restaurants – to also help local businesses who have found this year hard,” she said.

“We’re hoping we’ll get more support over the next few days or we’ll have some sad children.”

The partnership has received the support of the Belfast Giants and has been able to utilise the SSE Arena until December 22nd.

Cash donations can be made via PayPal at foodbank@northbelfastadvice.org.

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