The Louise Purton Christmas Toy Appeal 2021 is launched by Swift Group in Newbury
The 15th Christmas Toy Appeal was officially launched today (Monday) at the Community Furniture Project (CFP) in Newbury.
Regular supporters of the appeal, which was started by Swift in 2006, gathered in Santa's Grotto at the CFP in Bone Lane to mark the launch.
The team at Swift, based in Hambridge Lane, renamed the appeal the Louise Purton Toy Appeal in memory of company director Louise Purton, who died from cancer in 2019.
The courier company's aim is to provide gifts for children who social services class as being from deprived or financially-challenged backgrounds.
To ensure these children have a happy Christmas, Swift has appealed for the donation of toys and games, suitable for boys and girls, from newborn up to the age of 19. The items, which need to be new (not second-hand) and not wrapped, can be left at any of the designated collection points.
Swift Group managing director Adrian Smith said: "It's about the community looking after each other.
"Many people think of West Berkshire as an affluent area, which casts a shadow over the growing numbers of people in need.
"I am always touched by the generosity of the West Berkshire community – it is about the children and I want to thank all of our supporters for helping us to deliver smiles to families and children across the area."
When the appeal started 15 years ago, Mr Smith said, it helped 200 people and last year the number was 750.
"This year, we have printed 1,200 vouchers ready to help those in need and we will print more if we have to," he said.
The vouchers are exchanged for toys and gifts at the grotto.
Mr Smith said: "It's not just about the 'big present', it's also about all the little things, the stocking fillers, that make Christmas so special for children."
Parsons Down School has long been a supporter of the appeal and collects toys for the initiative.
Headteacher Catherine Bull was at the launch with some of the pupils from Years 3, 4, 5 and 6.
Mrs Bull said: "The appeal is an important part of our school community. It helps the children understand the importance of caring for others and that not everyone is as fortunate as they are."
Another long-time supporter of the appeal is Sainsbury's and the Hectors Way store also acts as a collection point.
Carol Irwin from Sainsbury's said: "This appeal is a particularly special one and it is important for big businesses like Sainsbury's to be a part of the community.
"It's so heartening to see all the gifts which our customers and the wider community donate."
Other collection points, as well as Swift Logistics in Hambridge Lane, include Newbury Building Society, Newbury, Hungerford and Thatcham, Inks Personalised, Thatcham, Hobbycraft, Newbury, and Greenham Trust, Greenham Business Park.
The CFP is also one of the collection points for the toys, as well as the distribution point.
CFP chief executive Kelvin Hughes said the charity had been involved with the appeal for about 10 years.
He said: "2020 was tough because we couldn't get to everyone who needed help because of Covid and the lockdown.
"We want to make sure we can support as many people as we possibly can this year."
Mr Smith said: "We want this to be Louise's legacy. Board members at Swift and other companies will come and go, but it is important that this community appeal continues.
"I like to think these donations take some of the stress away from families that are struggling and keep the fear away from the kids and make it a truly happy Christmas."