Our team at Engage Leeds have been working hard to make sure families and children don’t go without this Christmas.
In the east of the city, knowing there were many local children who’d have a Christmas without presents, Volunteer Co-ordinator Liz sought support of staff from Marks &Spencer Leeds. Liz felt it was important that children didn’t just receive a generic present, which wasn’t necessarily relevant to their age, gender or needs and wanted to give something more personal, with the consent of donors.
For instance, a boy aged five with autism and ADHD who loves building, so Lego or bricks would be ideal. A 14-year-old teen who identifies as non-binary, who is artistic and creative would love a tie-dye kit. Baby J, visually impaired, so sensory toys would be perfect. Being able to personalise the gift, allowing the donor to choose something specific, makes it unique and is the reason Operation Santa is now in its fifth year and has continued to successfully grow.
In the south of the city, our housing support assistants Pam and Sarah have been making similar appeals to their family and friend networks and been completely overwhelmed with the support on offer. Deb, Munya and Ian have been loading up the sleigh to coordinate the delivery of gifts to make sure they are with families before the big day.
Over the years Engage Leeds has made links with several external partners in the city and we have seen a huge amount of support over the last few years. Creative Race, a Leeds based Integrated Marketing Solutions company, swapped out their usual Secret Santa to provide wonderful gifts for some of the children at Engage Leeds. We have received generous donations from The Salvation Army, Cash for Kids and the North Church in Leeds have provided individual boxes of hope for the families we support.
The whole team have got into the holiday spirit, spreading Christmas cheer to customers and those they support. Many friends and family members have been unwavering in their support and each year people are incredibly generous with their help. We see support and donations come from all over the world, this year including gifts from Africa, Dubai, and Germany as well as the UK. Thank you!
Liz, Volunteer Co-ordinator at Riverside said: “Every Autumn friends start asking when Operation Santa will be launched. Every year I wonder if we’ll be as successful as the last. Despite the many limitations and the difficulties people face, the appeal this year has been brilliant, and we are grateful to everyone; housing support assistants and housing support workers that have helped to co-ordinate the database, neighbours and friends who have donated selection boxes and the friends who have wrapped literally hundreds of presents over the years!”
A spokesperson from CreativeRace added: “CreativeRace are grateful to have been involved in Operation Santa again this year.
“It is an initiative that all our staff love to be involved in. A great deal of care, attention, and enthusiasm is invested to ensure that all children are provided for as it is our collective belief that children in Leeds shouldn’t go without Christmas cheer. We are glad to have been able to hopefully provide a little joy for the children, and some relief for their parents as well.”
Church of the North spokesperson said: “As a church that is ‘for the city’ we do these things and contribute because we care for the city and the people in it and want to provide vulnerable people with a place to visit for a hot meal or with necessities especially when things are more expensive and difficult now.”