Two local charities have teamed up once again to make Christmas brighter for thousands of children and families in need across Northern Ireland.
The Society of St Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army have launched the 35th annual Family Appeal and are urging members of the public and businesses to support the initiative by picking up an extra gift during their Christmas shopping.
This year, in the Banbridge area, the toys can be left in St Patrick’s Church in Loughbrickland as well as any branch of Tesco, Gordon’s Chemists, First Trust Bank and Ulster Property Sales throughout NI until Wednesday 17 December.
They can also be dropped-off at any St Vincent de Paul or Salvation Army branch and most Co-Op Stores.
Last year’s appeal distributed more than 30,000 gifts to children across Northern Ireland – all of which was made possible by the generosity of local people and organisations.
It is expected that requests for assistance from this year’s Appeal will remain high, reflecting the financial difficulties facing many families at this time.
Pauline Brown for SVP NI added: “Ideally, we would love for the need for the Family Appeal to be diminishing but unfortunately the reality is that due to the continuing harsh financial climate, the appeal is getting larger as people struggle to make ends meet.
“Each year more and more families approach us for support, especially over the festive period when budgets are stretched to capacity.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult for many families to heat their homes, clothe their children and put food on the tables – add the stress of finding money for gifts and the situation soon becomes overwhelming.
All gifts must be new and unwrapped and suitable for children and young people - from tiny tots to teenagers. Family gifts of board games and tins of sweets or biscuits are always welcome.
Teenagers can often appreciate gift tokens, CDs and toiletries. A full list of collection points are available on www.svp.ie or www.salvationarmy.org.uk.
If you feel you are eligible for support from the Family Appeal contact your local social worker, health visitor or one of the charities for guidance notes and an application form.