Local volunteers work tirelessly as Christmas shoe-box appeal begins
Last year the generous people of Sligo and Leitrim donated a total of 6,071 shoe-boxes for the annual Christmas appeal which sees children in poverty-stricken countries getting presents for the festive period.
For more than 20 years, Ballymote woman Jennifer Irwin has been overseeing the project and she's gearing up for another busy few weeks as the appeal begins again on Thursday.
People can put shoe-boxes together of various essential items, such as hats and scarves, toothbrushes, copy books, and of course toys, which will then be delivered right on time for Christmas to children around the world.
Jennifer told the Sligo Champion the response so far from people interested in donating boxes has been really good so far.
She added: "We're opening from this Thursday, November 7th, for three weeks in the old courthouse building here in Ballymote.
"There are drop-off places around Sligo too and all the boxes gets delivered to us here," she explained.
"People can come in to us in the mornings, afternoons and evenings from Monday to Friday," said a busy Jennifer.
"Last year was brilliant, we got a total of 6, 071 shoe-boxes which was from all over Sligo and also Leitrim. It was excellent and mighty to see the response.
"We're hoping to have as good a number this year, the response has been great so far."
People, when packing items for their shoe-boxes, can stick to the 'four ws', she explained.
"The four ws are: wash, so maybe the likes of toothbrushes, toothpaste, that sort of thing, then something to wear, maybe a hat and scarf for example. Write is another one, a copy book or something like that and then wow, something to play with."
Jennifer said her team of volunteers will be busy making sure everything is done right to get the boxes ready on time to be sent off around the world.
She added that there is roughly 25 or so volunteers working along with her but they are also looking out for more.
"We are open to more people willing to help out, they can help out for an hour or so here and there, it doesn't have to be for half the day. If they pop into us at anytime, that would be a great help," she said.
Jennifer has been doing the Christmas shoe-box appeal for 20 years, the novel idea originated in Wales and then expanded to other countries.
"There are various drop-off points in Sligo, such as the Champion offices, Axa is another busy one there."
The boxes are collected and transported just in time for Christmas to children less well off.
"Last year's boxes went to Kosovo, a lot of the time it's mostly to Eastern European countries, places where there is a lot of orphanages and children who have nothing," Jennifer pointed out.
She said the project is a good one to help children less well off at Christmas.
"The boxes includes pyjamas, crayons, toys etc; I like to think we're helping the less well off.
"The boxes will be delivered in early December so that they will be there on time.
"If people have toys also that they don't want, we are always looking for fillers as well and they are ideal for that."
Jennifer said she hopes people will be reminded that the Christmas shoe-box appeal is beginning and once again called on the Sligo and Leitrim people to get involved in this worthwhile project.
If you would like to help out as a volunteer, you can contact Jennifer on 0879020536. Last year, 254,218 shoe-boxes were sent from Ireland to children in Eastern Europe and Africa.