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Young Mollie’s heartfelt Christmas gift plea to help less well-off

By Rachael Woods

A six-year-old-girl was the inspiration behind a Christmas appeal that has resulted in hundreds of gifts being delivered to needy families.

When mum Caroline Baker, who lives in St Michael’s, was helping her daughter Mollie to make her Christmas list she wanted her to know that there was more to the season than getting the latest toy or gadget.

“The TV advertising for Christmas started in September and Mollie was saying ‘mummy I want that toy’.

Mollie Baker, six, who was the inspiration for the Christmas appeal
Mollie Baker, six, who was the inspiration for the Christmas appeal

“She comes from a big family and I knew she would not go short of presents and I wanted her to be aware that others were not so fortunate,” said Caroline.

“When I was little we always made up a hamper to take to the church but I asked around and there didn’t seem to be a way of donating to people in the community.”

Unperturbed, Caroline decided to launch her own appeal and asked people in Tenterden to bring gifts, both wrapped and unwrapped, to the Woolpack pub barn one recent Saturday, after landlord Rob Cowan agreed that the space could be used.

The mother-of-one was stunned by the response she got when more than 300 gifts were delivered to the barn.

The deluge of presents included some from children at Tenterden Infants’ and Juniors’, which Mollie attends.

Rory Knight of Wud, with his donations
Rory Knight of Wud, with his donations

Head teacher Sam Crinnion had organised a day when families could bring presents in on the Friday before.

Children from Rolvenden Primary School also supported the scheme and their gifts were brought to the barn on Saturday.

Rory Knight, from High Street menswear emporium Wud also brought a cartload of gifts over to the barn.

Caroline, 46, said: “The response was stunning. People were coming into the barn with presents who had been on the breadline themselves and had received help from the Tenterden Foodbank.

“Their circumstances had improved and they wanted to give something back.

“It’s all about helping your neighbours.

Rev Chris Hodgkins, Rolvenden Church and his wife Julie
Rev Chris Hodgkins, Rolvenden Church and his wife Julie

“There are numerous national appeals and many worthy causes but we need to also remember the people from our own community.”

The gifts were wrapped up into packages of the same size and value and in total 200 presents were handed over to the Canon Lindsay Hammond of St Mildred’s for distribution to families in need.

An appeal went out for donations of food at the same time and the barn was soon full of tins of soup, beans, pasta and biscuits.

Canon Hammond said: “This has been such a terrific thing to have been part of.

“People have responded with enthusiasm, kindness and generosity and as a result we have been able to offer real and significant help to families in our community who are finding life really tough at the moment.

The presents donated by Tenterden people
The presents donated by Tenterden people

“What we would like to do next year is begin thinking about this much earlier, so that we can achieve a much more co-ordinated approach and build on the really good beginnings we have made this Christmas.”

St Mildred’s Church has also raised £3,775 for the district’s hard-up families and the cash has been used to buy Tesco vouchers which will be distributed to them along with the presents.

Caroline said: “We don’t know the families who will be receiving the presents, but we do know that their neighbours in Tenterden will have helped to make their Christmas a little happier this year.”

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