Kind-hearted workers from a criminal record checks company have been helping to pack a record 60,000 shoeboxes taking the magic of Christmas to poverty-stricken children around the world.
Ten members of staff from Disclosure Services in Wrexham volunteered to lend a hand to the Llay-based international relief organisation, Teams4U, set up by charity legend Dave Cooke in 2006.
According to Teams4, the annual Christmas Shoebox Appeal gets bigger every year and the boxes are filled with practical items like toiletries and stationery as well as age-appropriate toys for children under five, 12 and 14.
This year they are being trucked to youngsters in Belarus, Romania, Bosnia, Moldova and Uganda.
Disclosure Services allows members of staff to devote one work day a year to help their favourite charity and 10 of them chose to volunteer as “Christmas elves” with Teams4U at their unit of Llay Industrial Estate.
On top of the that, the firm also provides the charity with a free service, processing the Gift Aid element of the cash donations they receive.
It was a labour of love Business Development Analyst Steve Fox.
He said: “Teams4U is a brilliant organisation and they spread a bit of joy at Christmas, it’s just giving something back to those who are less fortunate than ourselves.
“Life can be tough in different parts of the world and these shoeboxes make a huge difference.
“The contents are worth less than the cost of a takeaway meal but the impact they have is priceless. I’m really proud to be part of this.”
Equally enthusiastic was Learning and Development Officer Magda Matwiejszym.
She said: “I wanted to come here today because it’s a great cause. I’ve got a six- year-old myself so this means a lot to me.
“When you see the amount of boxes they collect Teams4U need all the help they can get. “
The appeal also resonated with colleague Junaid Ali, a Business Development Analyst.
He said: “It’s really good that Disclosure Services allow us a day to come here to work. It’s basically to help other people who can’t afford or can’t have all the things which we enjoy at Christmas or any other holidays. It means a lot to me because I am a parent with a 15-month-old boy.”
Volunteer warehouse manager Julian Whitfield paid tribute to the team from Disclosure Services.
He said: “People like them are imperative to the operation to be honest. Without them, we just could not function.
“As well as providing the practical help in packing the boxes, Disclosure Services also process the Gift Aid which brings in a lot of money to the organisation. It is a massive help.”
Throughout the rest of the year, Teams4U operates aid projects around the world.
Overseas Project Co-ordinator Ziz York said: “We take volunteers from all walks of life to predominately Uganda but also Sierra Leone, Romania, Belarus to partner with different projects that we do.
“We run a lot of empowerment programmes mostly with children, so that’s trying to instil self-worth into people and removing barriers to education is another main one.
“In Uganda, it’s all focused on barriers to education, se we have a vocational training college and we have a dignity project which is about providing washbowls, sanitary pads to girls.
“That’s been an incredible project that’s led to a 45 per cent improvement in school attendance through delivering those pads and a menstrual hygiene programme alongside that.
We have a vocational training college in Sierra Leone as well and in Romania, we’ve worked with nurseries, particularly with children who come from illiterate families.
“In Belarus we worked a lot with fostering and adoption and supporting children in state care, to make sure that’s not the end of their lives but the start of their future.
She added: “This is the seventh year that we’ve been doing the shoe box appeal. In 2012 we did 4000 shoe boxes and this year I think we’re going to hit 60,000.
“The growth has been incredible and we’ve gone national. When we started, it was literally Wrexham and into Cheshire. Now we have people from Aberdeen to Cornwall.
“We put pretty much everything into the shoeboxes. We put in the practical things like toothpaste, toothbrushes, stationery for school.
“There should always be something fun, a toy, small things that can fill a shoebox obviously. It’s as much as you can get in a shoebox.
“It genuinely does is bring light into some very dark and desperate situations and enable children who have had to take on responsibility at such an early age, to play. The joy they bring is extraordinary.”
Paul Barlow, the Chief Executive of Disclosure Services, said: “We are very much a community-oriented company and we are proud to be based in Wrexham.
“Helping good causes in the community is part of our DNA which is why every single member of staff is allowed to devote one work day a year to do voluntary work that helps others.
“Teams4U is a fantastic organisation that does important work around the world and I am proud of our staff members who have been helping to pack the shoeboxes which take the magic of Christmas to children around the world.”
Anybody wanting to find out more about helping Teams4U as a volunteer or how to make a donation should go to: www.teams4u.com