Homelessness is a big issue in our towns with a growing number of people begging on street corners.
What is their background and how do they cope? Few of us take the time to find out, preferring to turn a deaf ear to their plea for cash as we scurry past to our warm, comfortable houses.
Then there are people like Rebecca Hope and Elaine Osborne who have been so moved by the plight of those without a roof over their heads that they are championing a drive to help them.
Rebecca, 28, of Bolsover, took over the reins of Chesterfield Homeless Christmas Shoebox Appeal last year after its previous incumbent gave up the role.
She appealed for volunteers on Facebook and Elaine, 45, of Inkersall, was among those to answer the call.
Rebecca said: “We set ourselves a target of getting 200 Christmas shoeboxes - and we got 736.”
Individuals, businesses, school pupils and college students backed the appeal which was extended to include gifts for the elderly.
Voiunteers collected boxes from drop-off points, stored them in bedrooms, playrooms and living rooms and checked them at St Thomas’s in Brampton before distribution. Elaine said: “It was so heart-warming and so much fun. It was cold, it was dark and it was near Christmas and we were passing them from one to another into the building.”
The volunteers weren’t able to see the reaction of those who opened their boxes on Christmas day, but Rebecca got an inkling from people who benefit from the services of Church on the Bus which provides food, bedding and clothing for the homeless.
She said: “A card inside the box meant more to one lady than anything else. It said ‘I don’t do Christmas but this has tugged my heart-strings…I hope all your dreams come true.”
“Some people were so thoughtful and imaginative. They put a Christmas pudding for one, drawer liners and fluffy socks in the boxes for elderly people.”
Other gifts included a CD of Christmas songs, a television guide and a child’s drawing.
Now the campaigners are rallying for support for this year’s appeal.
Here are the gifts which can be put in shoeboxes and will make a difference to someone’s life this Christmas:
Toiletries - Toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant and body spray, shower gel and shampoo, baby wipes and face wipes, hairbrush or comb, lip balm and moisturiser, sanitary products for women
Food items - Small bars of chocolate, sweets, biscuits, tinned food with ring pulls, can of pop, drink sachets, food sachets.
Clothing - Hat, scarf, gloves, warm socks, belt, raincoat or poncho, underwear.
Other items - Ziplock bags, notepad, pen or pencil, wind-up torch.
Puzzle books, playing cards, chocolate biscuits, reading books, one player games, hobby books.
No alcohol or money should be included in shoeboxes for the homeless or elderly.
Donors are asked to cover the boxes in Christmas paper, making sure the lid and base are wrapped separately so the contents can be checked. They must also mark each box for the intended recipient, such as homeless man, homeless woman, elderly man, elderly woman.
Shoebox gifts can be dropped off at the following points:
The Blue Bell, Bolsover
Soul Scissors Hair & Beauty, Duckmanton
K and D Bridal Boutique, Staveley
Osborne Autos, Staveley
Hasland Pet Supplies
Tesco Express, Derby Road, Chesterfield
Salon DM, Burlington Street, Chesterfield
Munro Motors, Derby Road, Chesterfield
Central Cars, Chesterfield.
Chesterfield Football Club, Proact Stadium, Chesterfield.
Anyone who would like to volunteer their services or find out more about the appeal, can contact Elaine on 07938 591743 or Rebecca on 07763 826925 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org