Community gives massive boost to Rotherham Toy Appeal

WARNING that this year’s Rotherham Toy Appeal would be needed more than ever has been met with a massive response from generous supporters.

The festive campaign’s mission is to ensure no child in the borough goes without a gift to open on December 25 — and a record 2,000-plus presents were handed out last year.

This could be topped in 2022 after organising charity Families First said that the cost-of-living crisis had meant a greater need for donated items.

Appeal co-ordinator Ann Levick and her small army of “elves” are now sorting and sending out the toys at their base at Parkgate Shopping.

She said: “When you see a response like this from people, it’s just wonderful.”

There have been years when Ann and her elves have needed to dip into the charity’s coffers to buy more toys to ensure no-one goes without, but this year the team are optimistic that this will not be needed.

This year’s appeal has included having donation stations at all of Rotherham’s libraries, at the suggestion of Gina Szumski, RMBC operations manager for the library service.

This has meant supporters who did not wish to travel to Parkgate Shopping or Rotherham town centre could donate their gifts closer to home.

“Having the libraries has made a massive difference,” said Ann. “It’s been a big help.”

There has also been a keen uptake from shoppers using the Christmas trees system at Parkgate Shopping, where they take a tag and buy a gift for a child of that age range.

And a pick-up day last Thursday (8) with RB1’s breakfast host Stewart Nicholson ended up spilling into the Friday because of the large amounts of gifts being donated.

Their tour took in the likes of Brinsworth Whitehill Primary; Rawmarsh Nursery; Clipper Logistics at Hellaby; Cooper & Turner Distribution at Canklow; and Norton Insurance, Virgin Money and Nationwide in Rotherham town centre.

“The number of times we came back to empty the car was ridiculous,” said Ann. “Not that I’m moaning!

“It’s fabulous. When you walk in somewhere and see all the gifts, it’s just like ‘wow’. There’s no other word for it.

“At Thorpe Hesley, they said when they first started, there were just drips of donations coming in, then it just took off. They rang me and said when we visited, we would need two cars to take it all away.”

Delivery firm DPD donated cash, which is welcomed by the appeal for those unable to shop via the online page at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/rotherhamtoyappeal2022.

Ann said: “When the donations arrive, we check that they’re new, and then they’re sorted by age ranges and girls and boys.

“We have people collecting them all the time too, and taking them to the families.”

Emma Bloomer, a family support worker with Rotherham Early Help, is among those ensuring the donations reach the right places.

She said: “I collect the toys and take them to our office before they go out to the families. We have a lot of parents who are very grateful for the support.

“We don’t wrap up the presents. That’s left to the parents, so they can feel it has come from them and they feel part of it. We know from families’ reactions how much it means to them.”

A social worker also collecting toys on Monday (12) morning said: “We work with some of the most vulnerable children in the borough, some of which would not get any presents without the toy appeal.

“They rely on these presents.

“It’s something we do every year, but the support is not just at Christmas. Families First is there throughout the year, providing support. If we have pregnant mums who need prams, we’ll always try Ann.”

The appeal continues to welcome donations all the way to Christmas.

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