THE drive to brighten up the Christmases of disadvantaged children is underway once again as the Wiltshire Times has joined the Operation Christmas Child effort.

Drop-off points are now dotted about in Trowbridge, Melksham, Warminster, Westbury and Southwick ready to receive wrapped shoeboxes of Christmas goods for the children.

Wiltshire area co-ordinator Steve Lloyd already has 1,000 packages being delivered for the world’s largest children’s Christmas project and he is hopeful this year they can exceed the 30,000 mark when the effort ends on November 18.

“I have a good feeling about this year. The interest is growing all the time and a lot of people have come up to me saying they would get involved, more than in the past,” he said.

“We have a really good base we use during this period in Warminster which has greatly helped us in regards to packaging it all up and shipping it out and the Wiltshire Times are always good at drumming up interest.

“In the past we have sent it off to disadvantaged children in Eastern Europe but the destination for this year’s gifts have not been confirmed.

“I went to Africa last year to see these gifts handed out and they are unbelievably appreciative. People can send toys, school supplies, clothing, but we ask that no liquids are sent, that is important.

“If we can get over the 30,000 mark, that would be a great effort. It is such a rewarding appeal to get involved in. We had a slow start but we are really gaining momentum now. I am sure there will be a really good amount.”

The drop-off points include the Wiltshire Times, Duke Street, Shoezone, Fore Street, Trowbridge, the Farmhouse Inn, Frome Road, Southwick, Old Silk Factory, Factory Way, Warminster, the Warminster Community Hub, Market Place, Bradford on Avon Hub, Church Street, and opticians Haine & Smith, in High Street, Westbury and High Street, Melksham, and Specsavers in Bank Street, Melksham.

“We really appreciate all the help we get from places all across Wiltshire, without that support, none of this would be possible,” he said.

Since it began in 1990, Operation Christmas Child has collected millions of shoeboxes to send off to under-privileged children, many of them living in war-torn countries, overseas.

“We are looking for some volunteers to help with all of this. The more the merrier really as it will help it all flow easier,” said Mr Lloyd. “It is a pleasure to be part of this as it helps so many disadvantaged children.”

To volunteer call Mr Lloyd on 07715 843872.