A warehouse in Coventry has been transformed into a major processing centre for a Christmas shoebox appeal – with around 1,000 volunteers now urgently needed to help ensure they are processed for shipping to children around the world.
International Christian relief organisation Samaritan’s Purse launched the Operation Christmas Child processing at a warehouse on Tuesday, November 22, with the site set to prepare 70,000 gift-filled shoeboxes for shipment per day until December 17.
Around 200 volunteers have signed up to lend their support so far, but 1,000 more are needed to help process the shoeboxes in time for Christmas, with more able-bodied volunteers needed to load cartons onto trucks.
The Coventry unit is one of four processing centres in operation across the UK, with landowners The Wigley Group helping the charity to set up their new base on Stonebridge Trading Estate, on Rowley Drive, at a reduced rate.
Volunteers will inspect and organise shoeboxes—filled with fun toys, school supplies and hygiene items—for delivery to children between December 3 and 22.
The boxes from Coventry will fill eight lorries to Albania, Belarus, Central Asia, Moldova, and Ukraine, and will contribute to the 2022 global goal of reaching 11 million children in need.
Among those volunteering is Dmitro and his family, who have travelled from Odesa in war-torn Ukraine to Coventry to help with the appeal.
Nick Cole, Director of Operation Christmas Child at Samaritan’s Purse, said: “We are packing 70,000 shoeboxes so there is quite an urgent need for volunteers, but it is a lot of fun and it is quite moving to see the generosity of people when you open the boxes.
“We do this to bring peace and hope to children in very difficult circumstances, and we are particularly keen to send to Ukrainian families and countries such as Moldova where our partners are hosting families from Ukraine.
“It is particularly humbling to have Dmitro and his family with us this year, to see first-hand the support from people. Something as small as a shoebox full of toys or essentials can help remind those children they are loved and not forgotten.”
Operation Christmas Child has been running since 1990, however the Coventry centre almost didn’t happen after Nick struggled to find a suitable site until The Wigley Group stepped forward, with Max Andrews from Avison Young assisting in a short-term lease on the vacant site.
Nick added: “We really can’t thank The Wigley Group enough for stepping up as we found it just in time for the Christmas appeal, and they have helped to make it safe and accessible for our volunteers to work in.
“It’s an ideal site too and easily accessible. We are also aware there is a really strong community support in Coventry and churches involved in charitable work, so we know the city will really take to this appeal.”
The Wigley Group is based in Stockton, Warwickshire, and is active in real estate acquisition, development and construction, as well as asset management of portfolios for both itself and commercial partners.
Asset Director Louis Washington-Smith, who helped Samaritan’s Purse with their move, added: “When I spoke with Nick about this site I knew how important it was, so for us to step in at a crucial time when they needed somewhere is really special for us as a local company.
“The work they do is so important and we’re looking forward to sending our own team of volunteers to help process the shoeboxes.”
Volunteer sessions are 2 hours 15 minutes on Tuesdays to Saturdays and can be booked online here.
Donations are also accepted at the processing centre at Unit 7, Rowley Drive, Stonebridge Industrial Estate, Coventry, CV3 4FH, until December 10.
For more information about volunteering at the Coventry Processing Centre, call 0208 559 1180 or visit samaritans-purse.org.uk/occ.