How did we get started for last Christmas?
It all started in July last year when the Committee met to discuss how we would run the Toys And Teens Project for 2021. With Covid still rife we wanted to minimise the risk to our committee and volunteers and not have the usual hoards of people in the Hall doing the sorting and packing. So we reluctantly decided to do mainly as we did for 2020 and have an appeal for money to buy toys but also to accept some toy donations.
In 2020, we raised over £30,000 and provided toys for 1401 children so we were hoping to do something similar in 2021. We did have around £6,000 left over and also some toys in storage that had arrived too late for 2021 Christmas.
We surveyed all the organisations that we support and asked them how many children they thought they would be requesting toys for and were astonished when we added up all the estimates and it came to 2,500!! Eeek!
So we knew our money appeal and our toy appeal had to go the extra mile.
Our regular sponsors came on board:
The Reading Chronicle published articles and our poster each week and on their website
Big Yellow Self Storage gave us two small rooms to store the donated toys
Caversham Vehicle Hire donated a large van for us to collect all the donations, take the to the Hall and to distribute them to the various organisations that had requested toys from us.
Berkshire Freemasons donated over £3,000 worth of toys to us
We organised a number of Pop-Up Donation Points around town during November at Big Yellow, Woodley Precinct and Tesco in Portman Road. Lower Earley Library were also accepting donations.
We were very glad of the warmth inside at Tesco in Portman Road on a very cold and snowy day. People came in their hoards with a large selection of toys and books, including the Tesco staff who donated a number of crate-fulls of toys.
Dealing with the Requests
We divided the organisations we support into two groups - one would get the donated toys and for other we would buy gifts on-line with the donated money. It was nerve-wracking wondering if we would have enough toys and money donated! We invited the organisations to give us firm details on numbers, ages and genders of the children.
The purchasing elves on the committee started buying first using last year's remaining funds. We had identified a toy/gift and a book for each age and gender and the organisations could choose to receive these items or request specific things - each child would receive roughly £20 worth of items. In all we spent over £23,000. Most chose the items we had pre-selected.
For those receiving donated toys, we brought all the items to our regular church hall on Sunday December 5th. Each items was checked and sorted into age suitability.
Bags were then packed with about 10 items in each suitable for a small spread of ages and both genders. These bags were then split between the receiving organisations and they decided which child would get what.
This work was done almost entirely by committee members although we did have to ask a couple of our regular volunteers if they could come and help one of the days - there were so many toys! We also had a couple of volunteer van-men to collect the toys and distribute the packed sacks.
The Final Totals
The fund raiser raised just over £15,000 plus some other donations which came direct during the October to December period.
Once all the sacks were distributed and all the money spent - the last purchase being on December 23rd! - we had provided toys and gifts to a record breaking 2558 children! That is an 83% increase on the previous year and a 25% increase on our previous record in 2019. Phew!
So huge thanks to everyone that donated money or toys, to our sponsors and to the committee and volunteers that came to help.
There were 2558 extra smiles on children's faces that Christmas morning - Santa had not forgotten them.
This is where we share our news and inspiring stories of how people have supported us.
Read previous newsletters here.