The second in her series of chats with people who are quietly going about doing good for and from this town, Gemma spent the day with Carolyn Collard as she sent her Christmas Shoebox collection on its way.
Hi Carolyn, who are you and what do you do?
My name is Carolyn Collard, I do some voluntary charity work.
How did you get involved with the Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Appeal initially?
Through a friend I met someone via Facebook whose church was already involved with the Shoebox Appeal. I did a box or two myself the first year, passing it on through the mutual friend and it’s grown from there. You want to do more each year. I think last year we did about 43.
I know you’ve completed 92 boxes this year. What’s inspired you to get so many people involved this year?
When you watch the videos online of the children receiving their boxes, it just makes people want to do it. I share the links amongst my friends, then their friends get in touch. Most people say they want to teach their children about giving and receiving, especially at this time of year. So I thought to myself, why not be the person who collects the boxes, as it seemed most people knew about but didn’t know where they go. Also, some people prefer to donate an amount and then I go out shopping for them, as they say they don’t know what to buy or physically can’t get about so easily. I love shopping and it’s for such a good cause!
One of my friends said to me when we were discussing what to put in the boxes, “…you want to stuff them full of goodies. You just want to put your heart in too.”
I know you collect things throughout the year. What kind of things we probably take for granted are welcome in the boxes?
I do save things all year. It’s basic hygiene items like soap, flannels and toothpaste. And stationery – loads of people have hundreds of pens and pencils floating around. The difference is the children receiving a simple pencil will be so overjoyed with it – they kiss things as they open them, it means that much. I’d encourage anyone to watch the videos to see how much the little things mean.
What happens to the boxes after they leave you and do you know where they will be going?
I take them to Fairwater Presbyterian Church, they get loaded onto a van, taken to a sorting warehouse in Llantrisant to be checked, even though I check them myself for restricted items. Last year our boxes went to Liberia. This year, some have already gone to Zambia and I believe ours are going onto a big van headed for Albania.
Will you be doing it again next year? If so, how can people get involved?
Oh definitely, I advertise when it’s time on my personal Facebook. I buy things every month, anything I see on sale, even good quality McDonalds toys are welcome, which many children cast aside. People can do the same or I’m glad to take donations, perhaps if you’re having a clear out or have bought too many party bag fillers, no matter how small throughout the year.
How can people get in touch with you?
They can find me on Facebook, I have a Page for my other charity work called ‘Caca’s Strawberry Teas’ or can email me C-COLLARD@sky.com
I spent Sunday morning with Carolyn and her Husband, we loaded the car, headed for Fairwater. As we pulled up, many people from the Church came out to unload the car, to place Carolyn’s 92 boxes with theirs, before they were blessed by the Minister and loaded on to the van ready to begin their journey to Albania to light up some little faces this Christmas. I spoke to Jane from the Church who said, “Carolyn’s like a mini miracle lady. I’d like to thank her for all her work. It’s grown from one of the Ladies here collecting a few to a real Community event. The boxes are given unconditionally to children of all faiths in these countries. The power of a simple gift is unbelievable.”
Everybody in Church that morning sang carols as they formed a human chain all the way out to the van, passing 470 boxes to one another, a very humbling but cheerful sight.
Thank you Carolyn for all that you do in the Community.