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Newbury retailers help Afghan refugees with toys, shower gels, books and food

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Newbury town centre shops have helped recently arrived Afghan refugees in the town.

Both the Parkway and Kennet Shopping centre retailers pulled the stops out after getting a call from West Berkshire Council explaining that they would be bringing the refugees shopping.

Many were still in the clothes they left Afghanistan in. Children had no toys. They had no toiletries or food.

“I took a call from the council on the Thursday evening who said we are coming in to do some shopping with the Afghan people," said Andrew Marmot, who manages the Parkway Shopping centre.

“We wanted to help – as they didn’t have anything. I popped a message out to our retailers here and they came up trumps.

“Marks and Spencer gave five bags of clothes and three bags of food. We bought £250 of gift cards for the children to buy toys at The Entertainer, and they added discount too.”

Kennet Shopping manager Richard Farley said the two organisations worked together to help get care packages together.

“It just shows how well people work together and that people do care," he said. "The majority of people here want to help. These poor people have to rebuild their lives and if there is anything we can do to help that, we should.”

Savers provided toiletries, The Works provided colouring pencils and books, Nando's offered a meal, Vue offered cinema tickets, Boswells said they could come for lunch.

L'Occitane assistant manager Vasilisa Fuentes said the store gave shower gels and soaps. “We are pleased to have been able to bring a bit of sunshine to these people who have suffered,” she said.

“I made some cakes to make them feel good,” said Sweet Box pastry chef Peter Baranyai. “I made Hungarian cakes – two layers of biscuits and chocolate on them – and macaroons.”

Waterstones gave a selection of books for all ages and abilities. Manager Nichola Banks said: “We receive a lot of books from publishers so we pulled those together. They were a mixture of picture books and latest releases.”

Retailers across the board helped out, from H&M to Fat Face and everyone in between came out with discounts and offers to make the money go as far as they could.

“It is nice to do something that is absolutely pure,” added Mr Marmot. “There is no other motive. We just wanted to help.

“It says Newbury is a welcoming place and that we will step up when needed. We didn’t do this for publicity – we did it because it is the right thing to do.”

West Berkshire Council has reached its target for community goods donations in support of families affected by the Afghanistan conflict who are staying in temporary hotel accommodation in the district.

Nearly £15,000 has been donated through the page on The Good Exchange. It includes £25,000 match funding from Grrenham Trust.

“To have received all that we need so quickly is a real credit to the local community,” said council leader Lynne Doherty (Con, Speen).

The appeal was set up to help answer the immediate and longer-term needs of people arriving from Afghanistan.

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