Hundreds of Blackpool children could be waking up on Christmas Day without presents to open, one of the resort’s leading charities warned today.
The Salvation Army has a list of 1,500 youngsters in the town who social workers and teachers say are faced with getting nothing on Chrismas morning because their families are struggling to make ends meet.
But an appeal for toys has so far seen only 300 gifts donated - leaving 1,200 children still needing to be helped.
Now with less than two weeks to Christmas, Salvation Army chiefs are urging people to donate presents to the appeal.
Tina Meredith, Corps Secretary for the Blackpool Salvation Army, said: “We know how generous people are and I’m sure they don’t want to see children with nothing on Christmas Day.
“We are in a desperate situation but we don’t want any children to miss out.”
The requests are all genuine and come through the council’s social services team which works with the most vulnerable families in Blackpool, and also from school head teachers.
Blackpool is the seventh most deprived town in the country according to government figures released in October, compared to ninth last time the findings were published in 2010.
Council figures show nearly a third of children in Blackpool are living in poverty, rising to more than half in some of the town’s poorest wards.
The Salvation Army stepped in to help deprived families after the council’s own Christmas Appeal, the ‘Give A Little’ campaign which last year provided presents for nearly 1,000 youngsters, had to be cancelled this year due to council cuts.
People are being asked to add an extra toy to their shopping list so families struggling to buy a gift for their children can make sure there is a small surprise under their Christmas tree this year.
Church leader Major Sandra Fisher, of the Blackpool Salvation Army, said: “During the festive season, when many are enjoying celebrations with friends and family, others are struggling to make ends meet.
“Our team of volunteers will be out delivering your generous Christmas gifts to those who might otherwise go without. The Christmas story inspires us as a church to reach out to those in need, so we’re running the Christmas Present Appeal to ensure every child gets a present.”
People are urged to drop a new unused toy for a child aged from newborn to 18 years old at The Salvation Army Citadel on Raikes Parade, Blackpool, by Tuesday.
The gifts will then be distributed to children and families through The Salvation Army’s own networks, local groups and social services.
Gifts can include anything from soft and educational toys for the very youngest child, to games, toys and accessories for older children.
Major Fisher said: “It’s wonderful to see children’s faces light up when they open their Christmas presents. If you have children, grandchildren, or children you support, think of what they might like in their Christmas stocking and consider buying an extra present and donating it.
“We’re asking for brand-new toys or gifts so the families we support feel extra special.
“It’s The Salvation Army’s 150th birthday this year and this year’s appeal is our biggest yet – we’ve been inundated with requests, with some 1,500 children on our list. We’d encourage anyone who can to support with a small gift to a family in need.”
All donations are welcome, but food items and used products are not appropriate for this appeal.