Plans for Hartlepool virtual giving tree to return after collecting 173,000 gifts for children
A children’s Christmas gift appeal is set to return this year after collecting a staggering 174,000 presents for youngsters all over the country.
Middleton Grange shopping centre’s Giving Tree went online for the first time as the pandemic and lockdown meant people could not get out as often to buy gifts in person as in previous years.
The result surprised everyone with 10,000 presents bought in less than a week and the final figure reaching an incredible 174,730.
It means the organisers have been able to help thousands of children all over the country who may otherwise not receive anything get a present in time for Christmas Day.
Mark Rycraft, the appeal’s coordinator and manager of Middleton Grange, said: “I knew that it would go viral locally because there is nothing else like it in the country.
"It was because people in Hartlepool shared it and had an affinity with the Giving Tree over the last 10 years that it escalated to the levels it did.”
The appeal’s huge success saw boxes pour in to the shopping centre’s warehouses and a team of staff and volunteers from Middleton Grange, website makers In Studio and original charity recipients Harbour refuge and Hartlepool Carers sort them for distribution.
It received donations and requests for help from charities from all over the country.
Locally, the gifts have also been shared amongst Miles for Men, Radio Hartlepool, Hartlepower CIC, Sunderland Rotary and Cash For Kids’s Mission Christmas with Kids Out for children in poverty and affected by domestic abuse.
Mark added: "We became that vehicle for people to donate and a collection hub where charities came to us to assist their needs.
"We know we have been able to deliver presents to tens of thousands of children across the UK."
He said partnership working was key to the appeal’s success and praised all those involved.
It was so successful that Prime Minister Boris Johnson recognised it with a Point of Light award.
Looking ahead Mark said: “We are definitely going to do it again. After Christmas I’ve got meetings to talk about what it could look like.
"I certainly hope it’s as successful and we can again work with Cash For Kids and all the other charities in Hartlepool.”