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Toy Appeal: ‘As vital today at it is was all those years ago’

PUBLISHED: 14:57 04 December 2017 | UPDATED: 14:57 04 December 2017

Former Newham Recorder editor Colin Grainger.

Former Newham Recorder editor Colin Grainger.

Archant

The Community Links and Newham Recorder Christmas Toy Appeal has been a part of my life for 40 years, writes former editor Colin Grainger.

Back in 1977 I met with co-founder and now life president of Community Links, Kevin Jenkins, who explained the need for such a campaign.

With Links now looking back over its 40-year history, it is a time to reflect on the need for such a campaign. There’s a simple answer to that question – yes.

The appeal IS as vital today as it was all those years ago. Despite the prosperity of some, many people live below the poverty line. And the special help Recorder readers give, is vital. It is an appeal at the heart of all that is good in the community.

In fact, it may be even more relevant than ever before. Back in the formative years, the feeling was that the number of needy youngsters was growing and getting the community to donate around 500 toys would provide a special treat. I was picked to lead the campaign for the paper. This special appeal soon captured the hearts of the community. The following year the target was 1,000 and as the years went by the need grew and last year it topped 17,000 toys.

Hundreds of celebrities have helped launch or have taken part in the campaign each year and even the Royal household back it with a donation. Businesses, organisations, pubs, clubs, groups all do their bit. Another remarkable fact is that those children who got joy from the campaign are now among the volunteers who help spread a little happiness each Christmas to those who need it most.

But it is the individuals who are so important, and reflect the spirit that exists in one of the most diverse communities.

The senior citizen who donates his or her pension, the talented makers of special gifts like teddies. The family on benefits who buy a small present. Newham Council also play an important role in the support they give and it really does your heart good to be part of something as special as this.

There’s also our junior task force – the youngsters who help raise money and provide toys for children less fortunate than themselves.

The divide between the haves and have nots is wider in some parts of the borough than it has been before. And it is those who have been referred to benefit from our campaign that need this special kind of joy most – and who DO benefit.

I am honoured to be a patron of the appeal and every year we urge everyone who can to give a toy because together we can fill those empty sacks and ensure that Christmas Day is a special for children who would otherwise go without.

Hopefully this year we will have again reached our target.

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