Volunteers at Operation Christmas Child’s depot in Melksham heard first-hand just how important their work this year could be.

The team, working to pack and load this week’s supply of shoeboxes, was joined by 25-year-old Elena Alice Nihut, who told how she received a shoebox as a child growing up in post-revolution Romania.

She said: “I was seven when I received my first shoebox. It was a really, really cold winter, with lots of snow, and it was my last day at school before the winter holidays.

“I had lost my gloves and I was really upset, because my mum wouldn’t let me go outside to play with all the other children.

“We were given the boxes from our church and I was amazed to see there were new gloves in the box.”

After receiving gift boxes from the UK as a child, Miss Nihut continued to work with her church in Craiova, south Romania, to distribute boxes to needy children.

After training as a nurse, she came to the UK last year and now works in a care home in Sutton Veny, near Warminster.

She still helps with the annual Samaritan’s Purse appeal, giving up her time to help load the boxes at the Bowerhill depot.

She said: “For a child, it’s more than they can imagine. I always remember the joy I had and the look on the faces of the children when we give them the boxes. It made me want to come here and help.

“To most people, it’s just a small box for them, but it makes the whole Christmas for a child.”

Shoeboxes can still be donated, with the final shipment due off today. Wrapped boxes can be handed in at the Wiltshire Times office in Duke Street, Trowbridge, or at other drop-off points across west Wiltshire.