Wansbeck Christmas Campaign expects busiest year yet amid cost of living crisis

Donations and nominations are again being welcomed for a project that helps make sure no children in Wansbeck are without a gift on Christmas morning.
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Wansbeck Christmas Campaign collects donations of gifts for children who would otherwise go without and makes sure they are discreetly delivered by around 25 volunteers ahead of Christmas.

The organisation is accepting referrals for this year and has set up an online shopping wish list that will be updated with items as they are requested, available at linktr.ee/xmascampaign.

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Vicky Oakley, the leader of the campaign, said: “We were absolutely blown away by the generosity of the public last year. We could not believe the response.

Just some of the gifts generously donated to the campaign in 2022. (Photo by Wansbeck Christmas Campaign)Just some of the gifts generously donated to the campaign in 2022. (Photo by Wansbeck Christmas Campaign)
Just some of the gifts generously donated to the campaign in 2022. (Photo by Wansbeck Christmas Campaign)

“We are just hoping that we get the same response this year but we obviously also recognise that more people will be hit by the cost of living and may not be able to afford to buy the gifts that they bought last year.

“We are just going to have to wait and see, and hope that we can get the response that we got.

“It does not matter how small a gift is that you purchase. Every gift actually makes such a big difference. People do not realise that all of the little things add up.”

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The organisation has arranged for all Co-op stores in Wansbeck to have a collection of cardboard ‘present people’ with a wish list written on that shoppers can take and then return attached to the requested gifts.

It is also asking other businesses in the area that are willing to be drop off points to get in touch.

As well as the online nomination form, the campaign works with school health visitors and social services staff to get help to struggling families. Unlike other support schemes, their assistance is not means tested.

Vicky, who is 51 and from Morpeth, said: “You could say that people would take advantage of our service, but we hand deliver and we know that that is not the case.”

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The campaign began during the pandemic and was only intended to last one year, but it was such a success that it has continued, and grown year on year.

Energy price rises and the cost of living crisis has meant the scheme expanded from helping around 150 families in 2020 to over 600 last year, and is expecting the 200 nominations it has already received in 2023 to rise above 800.

Vicky, who is also a foster carer, said: “Last year we had families who had their own homes, however they could not afford Christmas because somebody had lost their job, they could not get a mortgage anymore and they were having to move out, or just the cost of energy had doubled or tripled in their household.”

One family that the campaign helped last year consisted of a domestic violence victim who had been unable to buy anything for her two year old daughter.

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Vicky said that “people do not realise” that for many of the recipients of the campaign’s generosity, these will be the only gifts their children receive on Christmas morning.

Her main message is that people should not be afraid to nominate their children if they need help. She added: “It is not about feeling embarrassed or not worthy, we are here to help.”

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