PEOPLE across west Wiltshire are being urged to get together to pack shoeboxes full of festive gifts to send to millions of children in need across the world.

The call comes from the international charity’s Samaritan’s Purse, which is once again running its Operation Christmas Child campaign, which began yesterday (Thursday) launching on November 1.

It is urging people to host packing parties and to get together to fill the shoeboxes full of toys, school equipment and other festive treats.

Area co-ordinator Steve Lloyd, who heads up the Wiltshire part of the project, explained why it’s proved so popular.

“For many across Wiltshire Christmas is about more than just the expensive festivities we see so often today.

“We have thousands of supporters across the region who want children to know the meaning of Christmas and for them to know they are loved and not forgotten.

“Many of the children receiving the gift-filled shoeboxes will have never received a gift before.”

“Our supporters pack shoebox gifts each year to bring joy, love and hope to children in need around the world.”

Each year, thousands of residents of Wiltshire faithfully pack shoeboxes full of gifts for Operation Christmas Child, which has delivered 157 million shoebox gifts since 1993.

For these people, Christmas is about more than just roast dinners, elaborate gifts and a special episode of Dr Who and it begins in October.

The world’s largest Christmas project of its kind, hopes to collect enough shoebox gifts globally to reach 11 million children worldwide.

Shoebox gifts from Wiltshire will play an important role in helping reach that target.

The boxes will be packed full of gifts donated by local residents, organisations, churches, schools and voluntary groups.

Until November 18 they can be dropped off at collection points across the county.

They will then be delivered to a central distribution depot in Westbury covering the whole of Wiltshire, ready for shipping overseas.

Among the drop-off points are several branch es of Haine & Smith Opticians. The firm’s marketing manager, Kay Saunders, said: “We are delighted to be supporting Operation Christmas Child as the work they do overseas is so worthwhile.”

Thousands of volunteers across the country will then check and prepare the shoeboxes for international shipping to more than 100 countries.

The shoeboxes are handed out to local communities by Samaritan’s Purse ministry partners around the world at festive outreach events.

Mr Lloyd added: “We are asking for a donation of £5 per box to cover the costs of collecting, processing and shipping shoebox gifts from the UK to 13 countries.

“It also provides training and project materials for local churches and groups overseas to lead safe, well-organised celebrations where children in need receive shoeboxes.”