As our long, hot summer is over and shops are now displaying their Christmas stock, our thoughts turn to those who are less fortunate.
Operational Christmas Child has been going for 26 years. A simple, gift-filled box demonstrates our love for needy children overseas.
You take a shoebox, cover it in Christmas paper and fill it with items which are appropriate for the age of the child.
Items that can be included are hats, gloves, scarves, soap, toothpaste, stationery, wrapped sweets and a small toy.
There are some items that are not suitable and these are liquids, chocolate and war items, such as soldiers and guns, as these children have seen war at first hand.
Books with pictures are fine, but not with a lot of words as the children cannot read English.
We also confirm that we do not put anything at all of a religious nature into the boxes, unlike some other charities.
Some organisations do not complete full boxes, but give us items to make them up, for which we are very grateful.
In the past, supporters of shoeboxes have been invited to include a donation to cover the cost of processing and transportation of the boxes to needy children.
Because international shipping and fuel costs have gone up, we ask, where possible, for a donation of £5 per box. We checked with the Post office and it cost £15 to send one box last year to Romania. However, we are grateful for any amount that you can give.
Last year we had 288 boxes without a donation.
In 2017 Operation Christmas Child delivered more than 11 million shoeboxes gifts to 160 countries, with 678,000 from the UK, and 4,000 of these came from Northumberland, which we sent to Romania. Of course, we are always trying to increase this number so if you have never done it before please think about it.
Boxes can be dropped off at Shoezone shops in Ashington, Cramlington and Blyth, and Handi Stationery in Alnwick. Schools and churches are also drop-off points, as well as our processing centre.
We have a team of drivers who volunteer to collect the boxes and bring them to the processing centre, where another team of volunteers checks and seals them ready to be transported.
Our processing centre this year again is at Doxford Place Methodist Church in Cramlington. We are very grateful to the Rev Una McLean, who has kindly agreed to let us have these premises.
We will be open Monday to Friday, from 10am to 3pm, from Tuesday, November 6 until Wednesday, November 21.
If you feel you would like to help, or if you just wish to see what we actually do, please do come and visit us.
Operation Christmas Child