Published: 05:00, 25 December 2021
A mum from Upchurch and the Rotary Club of Sittingbourne Invicta are making Christmas a little brighter for children from less well off families.
The Rotarians donated more than 330 Christmas stockings full of presents to the Swale Foodbank.
And mum-of-two Cia Merrall with volunteer Amy Fernando of the Upchurch Support Network provided 60 huge stockings for youngsters who may have gone without gifts.
The team of eight is also gifting Christmas lunch to 12 families featuring turkey, beef, gammon, fresh vegetables, treats and traditional items like pigs in blankets and stuffing.
The two women, helped by Cia's "elves", sons Ted, four, and Kit, two, delivered the stockings at the weekend.
Cia, 35, said: “People have been so generous but it has been heart-breaking hearing about the plight of others. Most are in work but with large families they are struggling. Some don’t like to go to a food bank but this is more like being helped by friends in a time of need.”
After spending the first lockdown ensuring the house-bound elderly received supplies from the shops, Cia turned to those with young families for the second year running. She said: “It has gone full circle. Now the elderly are helping the young. It’s the whole community pulling together.”
She explained: “We began taking food and medicines to the elderly who couldn’t get to the shops because they were self-isolating. People started donating goods and when the first lockdown finished we had food left over.
“During the school holidays we realised there were families with younger children who were struggling so we started a fresh food service to augment the normal food banks.”
The Rotarians with help from Neighbourhood Watch volunteers, golf club friends, WI members, wives' groups and individuals put together stockings for boys and girls in various age groups. They were supported by Crusader Packaging, which supplied outer boxes, and the Lukehurst furniture showroom in Sittingbourne which stored the finished stockings.
Rotary president Ian George said: “This project caught the imagination of our members and friends. I’m very grateful to all those who provided stockings or donated money. Let’s hope that in these very uncertain times a lot of children will have a happier Christmas.”
Esther Hurwood, project manager at Swale Foodbank, said: “We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Rotary Club Invicta who provided us with pre-stuffed Christmas stockings to pass on to families needing our support.
"We had families come in who had nothing and when they saw the stockings we had many in tears. It was beautiful to see. One man who cried alongside his wife had recently lost his whole business due to Covid.
"The fact that Rotarians had taken the time to create these stockings just blew them away. They were so grateful.
"We are helping families who are homeless and living in temporary accommodation. One single mum is working two or three jobs to try to keep her head above water.
"We have helped families where a parent has cancer and is undergoing treatment. Every one of them so grateful. Thank you, on behalf of the hundreds of children you will possibly never meet or know about. Because of what you did, those children feel loved and seen this year.”
Mr George added: "We are always happy to hear from any Swale charity or organisation to see if we can help."