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The gift of giving with the Salvation Army

Monday 20 December in Community

Earlier this year, the Salvation Army launched its annual toy collection appeal in collaboration with Isle of Man Bank and Shoprite. The scheme has been running for more than 20 years on the Island and aims to help families and children from low income or challenging backgrounds.

Gifts are packaged according to age group, with younger years receiving a sack containing a package consisting of a book, teddy bear and a big toy, and teenagers being given vouchers or toiletries.

“The lovely thing about it is that it’s discreet,” explained Captain Rachael Nieuwoudt. “We try to make it as painless as possible to get our support out there without judgment. Some people might feel embarrassed that they are asking for charity, and we want to respect their privacy.”

“The idea is to allow the parents to lay claim to the gifts. Historically we used to wrap all the presents, but we found parents wanted to know what they were giving their children.” While volunteers don’t wrap any of the gifts, parents are strongly encouraged to get involved with their presents.

Now in its 138th year, the Christian organisation distributes an estimated 2,500-3,000 toys annually across the Island Yet, the toy appeal is only a fraction of the work the organisation carries out, with volunteers also heavily involved in distributing food vouchers, caroling services, visiting the sick in Nobles Hospital and inmates at the prison, as well as running a Christmas community meal for the elderly and vulnerable.

“We like to help people in need, whether that’s helping the homeless, feeding the hungry, or caring for those who are suffering from a bereavement,” Captain Dylan Nieuwoudt discussed. “It’s in our DNA and part of our faith.”

“The act of giving and kindness runs deep. Many volunteers involved in the toy appeal never meet the children who received the toy parcels they put together, though there have been occasions where they have bumped into past users.”

“We have bumped into people who received a present from the Salvation Army toy appeal 20-30 years ago. It can be rewarding to hear them share the positive impact it’s had on their lives as adult, and bringing good change when there could be despair – it makes us feel that what we are doing is worthwhile.”

Though, the festive period may seem ‘merry and bright’ we must remember there are many families who are struggling behind closed doors. It’s easy for us to become blinded by extravagant gifts and treats, but we should always bear in mind that giving is what makes our Christmas special. Generosity and kindness are key to the Salvation Army.

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