Southampton Toy Appeal: Meet the volunteers making Christmas special for thousands of children

  • Rachel Hepworth reports from Southampton on the kind-hearted donors and volunteers helping to make Christmas special for thousands of children.

The financial pressures on many families at the moment mean that Christmas presents are a luxury they simply can't afford.

For more than 30 years, Southampton City Council has been running its Christmas toy appeal, with generous donations from local businesses and members of the public.

Around 4000 families are reliant on children's services. Now , thanks to the kindness of strangers, they won't miss out on Christmas morning.

This year, with more families struggling amidst the cost-of-living crisis, the toy appeal is extending its support to children and families supported by other council services.

Thousands of gifts have been donated

The appeal is once again supported by Westquay, where a present drop-off point at its customer service desk will be open for members of the public who are able to donate new toys from now until Sunday 18 December.

Despite the challenging financial circumstances the country is facing, over 70 local businesses have pledged their support this year.

The presents will be collected, sorted, and wrapped by a team of over 800 volunteers from Southampton City Council and partner organisations throughout December with gifts distributed to children and families in time to open on Christmas morning.

Rob Henderson, Executive Director of Children and Learning says the Toy Appeal is a lifeline for too many people: "There are more and more families needing support- and we want these children, who are often struggling and very vulnerable, to feel really amazed and have a really nice Christmas with some lovely toys."

Social workers hand-pick gifts and deliver them to children

Social worker Holly Clarkson is one of the volunteers and says it's wonderful to make a difference: "It's that relief, seeing it on a parents face when you walk up to the door.

"I've had parents cry, having to choose a Christmas present or putting the heating on.

"What we're saying is put the heating on and we'll deal with the Christmas presents"

This year there is an increased need for presents for older children aged 12-18 so a wish list has been created. Volunteers would be especially grateful to receive:

  • £10 vouchers for Westquay

  • Man Bags  

  • Touch screen gloves

  • Headphones

  • Hair dryers

  • Ruck sacks

  • Hats and gloves

  • Lava Lamps

  • Sports equipment (Football, Basketball, Goalie Gloves)

  • Wireless Speakers

  • Boxing gloves

  • Make up

Toy appeal present drop off points:

  • Westquay Customer Service Desk on Level 3 - any day (9am-5pm)

  • Civic Centre or One Guildhall Square reception desk: Mon-Fri (9.30am-5pm)

  • Libraries: Central, Shirley, Lordshill, Thornhill, Bitterne (10am-4pm)

  • Tudor House: Mon-Thurs (10am-3pm) and Sat-Sun (10am-5pm)

  • Southampton City Art Gallery: Mon-Fri (10am-3pm) and Sat (10am-5pm)

  • Sea City Museum: Any day (10am-5pm)

  • Marlands Customer Service Desk on Ground Floor – any day (9am-5pm)

  • The MAST - any day (10am-5pm)

The last day to donate gifts is December 18th.