“I remember walking through the streets at Christmas as a child and hearing The Salvation Army band but didn’t really know who they were or what they did.
“Then, about ten years ago, my friend invited me to her Salvation Army church. I remember feeling so comforted by going. And since then they’ve been like a family to me. My daughter, who’s now five, was dedicated there, we go to Messy Church together – an afternoon of craft, activities, bible stories and food - and every year she is an angel in the Christmas nativity.”
“And then as I got to know The Salvation Army I heard about Toys & Tins. I liked the fact that it was a local appeal for local people, encouraging neighbourhoods to look after each other to make sure every family and child can experience the joy of Christmas.
“So I organised a coffee morning at my work to raise money and collect donations. I then handed to donations over to my friend at The Salvation Army.
“I really got into it – advising people to look out for the ‘3 for 2 offers’ and donate the extra toy to The Salvation Army.”
“And then everything changed overnight. I was married, in a happy relationship with two kids – they were 12 and 3 at the time - and one day their dad left. He was having an affair. I had no idea. And then suddenly he changed his mind and wanted to come back home. He was abusive. The police had to get involved. And on top of that he left me in a load of debt. It was an awful time.
“Meanwhile, Christmas was fast approaching.
“I never asked for help but my friends at The Salvation Army could see I was struggling. So they organised for me to get a Toys & Tins hamper.
“At first I felt so bad. ‘There are people worse off than me,’ I thought. But the truth was the stress of wanting to make Christmas special for the kids was making everything worse. So I swallowed my pride and let my friends help me. And that stress was taken out of my hands. It was a massive burden off my shoulders – saying I needed help.”
“What’s extra special about Toys & Tins is the thought that goes into the hampers. It’s not just chucked together. They check how old the children are. My daughter got a doll and my son got a remote control helicopter. On top of a main present each, they also got stocking fillers like colouring books and pens. And then the food hamper meant we could have a nice family meal together and enjoy some treats. We also got Christmas crackers – my daughter loved them! It was so well thought of. It’s that extra care that makes the appeal so amazing.”
“In the world we live in, it’s so comforting to know that people do care and the Toys & Tins appeal is an example of that. And it’s the perfect time of year - Christmas is all about giving.
“The thing is - you might need that help one day. You never know what’s round the corner. I went from supporting the appeal one day to needing help the other. Life is really tough.
“But I always find there’s a positive – my family might not have a lot of money now and we might not know what this Christmas will bring, but we are happy and it’s makes my Christmas knowing we have good people around us. With The Salvation Army you’ve always got a friend so I know it’ll be OK.
“No matter what happens in life there are always helpers. I want to make sure I’m a helper. I want to teach my children to be helpers too. And when we’re back on our feet, we will be giving back.”