Liverpool’s Toy Story

Council staff have Christmas all wrapped up for children in need

THEY’VE, gathered, they’ve collected and they’ve counted…

And now big-hearted workers at Liverpool City Council have created their very own toy mountain that’s going to bring smiles to the faces of hundreds of children this Christmas.

Each year, the call goes out to council staff to add one more present to their list. The council’s annual Gift Appeal seeks to make sure that families in need and young people leaving care are not left empty-handed over the festive period.

Co-ordinated by the council’s Charity Champions, this year’s appeal saw staff from across the organisation bring in brand new toys, games, gifts and vouchers for children of all ages. The gifts were left at special collection points and when they were gathered together for a final tally, they filled an entire room at The Cunard Building.

They will now be distributed by the Salvation Army to local families in need and by Children’s Social Care staff to young care leavers, in time for the big day.

Jeanette Griffiths from Liverpool Salvation Army was on hand to collect the items this week. She said: “This is a phenomenal response that will bring the real spirit of Christmas to many families this year. The collection has run across a host of organisation and as a result we believe more than 500 children and young people will receive a gift on Christmas Day. Without this appeal many of these children would be waking up to nothing.”

The Salvation Army works with council departments, community groups and local schools to identify those children and families who need help. They then go about finding the ideal toy, game or item of clothing that’s going to bring a smile to their face on the big day.

“Many people are facing dire financial circumstances this year,” said Jeanette. “We have found that a lot of families can just about cope with providing the essentials such as food, heating and paying the rent but they don’t have any money left over. The pressure of buying presents can tip them over the edge and leave with the daunting prospect of giving their children nothing or going deeper into debt. Thanks to this appeal, many families won’t face this dilemma.”

As well as haul of toys, the appeal also netted more than £400 in gift vouchers, which will be handed out to young people who have recently left the council’s care.

The Salvation Army volunteers now have the really great job of distributing all the gifts to homes across Liverpool…on Santa’s behalf, of course!

The Gift Appeal comes hot on the heels of the council’s Foodbank collection, which has netted more than six tonnes of food and essential items for people and families who have nothing.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson, said: “Once again we have asked our staff to go the extra mile to help the children of our city and they didn’t disappoint. It is a sad reflection of the times we are living in when we are faced with the prospect of youngsters having nothing to open on Christmas Day. Thankfully, we have an incredibly compassionate workforce at the council who are committed to this city and are willing to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those who need our help.

“I am incredibly proud of Liverpool City Council’s staff and it is my privilege to lead such a kind-hearted group of people.”

Photo: The Toast of Christmas Presents: Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson at the Gift Appeal collection with the council’s staff Charity Champions, Sharon Duff and Jeanette Griffiths from the Salvation Army and Emily, Mason and Nova Clarke and gift recipient Relda Ming.

Emily’s gift

“Imagine waking up on Christmas morning and everyone you’ve ever known is gone.”

It may sound like a nightmare scenario straight from the pages of a Christmas Carol but for 25 year-old Emily Clarke, it’s a ghost of Christmas past that still haunts her.

The former care leaver says that December 25 used to be ‘just another day on the calendar’.

“It makes you feel cold and empty,” Emily said. “At a time of families getting together and celebrating, you are alone. I couldn’t wait for Christmas to be over.”

With experiences such as this, it’d be understandable if someone turned their back on the festive season completely. However, thanks to the council’s Children in Care team and the Gift Appeal, Emily has had her faith in human nature restored.

“I have received a gift from the appeal in the past and it has made all the difference,” she said. “It’s just a little something that tells a young person in care that someone – even a complete stranger, cares enough to think of them on Christmas Day.”

City centre dweller Emily now has the best gifts of all in the shape of her young family, Mason, five, and four month-old Nova. And both the children have benefited from this year’s Gift Appeal.

Soccer-mad Mason was particularly pleased with his brand new football.

“Making ends meet can be struggle, particularly at this time of year,” said Emily. “So it’s great to know that my children are benefiting in the same way I did. It’s a fantastic appeal that’s giving young people gifts but above all, it’s giving them hope.”

PHOTO: Gift Wrapped:  Emily Clarke with Mason and Nova at Liverpool City Council’s Gift Appeal collection.

Liverpool Waterfront