This month is when all the items purchased over the course of the year are finally put together in individual shoe boxes for a family or elderly couple.  I do several boxes and usually have more items than I can fit in the boxes.  I don’t really have the space to have everything laid out and to be able to walk along with my shoebox and pick things out to put in. I try to group things together in storage boxes as I buy things but the boxes are piled on top of each other so there is a lot of moving boxes around when I start to fill the individual shoeboxes.  I have my contents list to hand and pick out the essential items first one box at a time, and then pick other items off the list of suggestions – at least 5 per box but I always try to cram as much as I can into a box.

The family boxes are the most challenging as I work on the basis that the family is likely to consist of at least 4 people although based on the photos on the Link to Hope website there often seem to be 3 or more children in a family.  I try to add something for each family member, and put in several small toys so that each child has something to play with.  Colouring pencils and drawing paper are a must add item for me.  Small cars, tennis balls, and small yoyos are all good to fit in.  I like to add a cuddly toy but they sometimes take up too much room, so only a few of the boxes have them in.  I usually put in safety razors for the dad, but I find it harder to think of things to put in for the mom.  I do put jewellery or make up in some boxes, but if there are older girls they may well take a shine to those.  Hair accessories are good to put in and don’t take up much room.

For the elderly boxes I try to put in a pair of reading glasses and if possible a wind up torch as some of the additional items.  Wind up torches are getting harder to source for a reasonable price.  This year I’ve managed to get some small hot water bottles and have made some basic hot water bottle covers, so those will be the third additional item, and I like to put pens and notepads and scissor or nail clippers – so that would cover the 5 additional items, but I’ll also put in safety razors, and some socks.  I have bought a couple of travel mugs so if any of the boxes are large enough I’ll put one in.  (and put things inside the mug to utilise the space, like the nail clippers, or cotton hankies)

One of the ‘essential’ items is sweets or chocolates so I generally put in bags of mints – this year I got the Foxes mints for a good price, and I put in a bar of dark chocolate.  I’ll put in a hat, or gloves as one of the essential items, and if it’s a larger box I’ll put a scarf in, but they tend to take up more room than gloves or hats!  The other essentials are soap and flannel, toothbrush and toothpaste (I’ll put a double toothbrush pack in the elderly boxes, if it goes to a single person they’ve got a spare for later in the year), candles and holders – I’ve got some small candle jars and some filled ramekin dishes but I’ll try and put extra tealights in the box.  The final essential is small games – so most will get a pack of playing cards as they don’t take up much room, and work out about 50p per pack, but I have a couple of packs of dominoes.

I’m an area receiver and I wasn’t sure if I would get many boxes this year.  I had some starting to arrive in October but most come in the last week.  The official cut off was 6 November but I’ve been able to accept some after the date as Link to Hope aren’t collecting from me straight away, just as well as I haven’t finished packing my shoeboxes!  Thankfully I’ve received over 100 filled shoeboxes.  Many thanks to all who participate in the scheme and take the time and money to make a difference to someone else’s life. 

Final total collected was 128.  I had contents for more but I ran out of time.  I also sent off 3 knee blankets, but I have more squares so will carry on stitching them together ready for next year 😊

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