For the 20th year running, the Giving Tree Christmas programme between Belfast Central Mission, Saint Vincent de Paul and the Department for Communities (DfC), will provide parcels of toys and games for children across the whole of Northern Ireland.

Introduced as a small-scale internal initiative in 2000 for the then Department for Social Development, the ‘Giving Tree Appeal’ now welcomes gifts donated by DfC employees and team members from offices in Enniskillen, Cookstown, Lisnagelvin, Foyle, Ballymena, Omagh throughout the greater Belfast area, and further.

Tracy Meharg, Permanent Secretary for the Department of Communities, said;

“Our annual Giving Tree Appeal continues to be one of the highlights of our calendar from a team motivation and Corporate Social Responsibility perspective. Many of us are keeping an eye out throughout the year for gifts and toys we can pick up and include in the bundle.”

The thousands of donated toys and gifts are accumulated at DfC offices across NI before being collected by BCM and SVP to be sorted, packed and distributed by a willing team of volunteers from the three organisations.

Garry McKenna, a volunteer member of Saint Vincent de Paul, said;

“Christmas can be a difficult and trying time for many families and so, together with BCM and the DfC, we are striving to ensure there are children and young people in all corners of Northern Ireland that can enjoy the gift of a new toy this Christmas, without putting undue pressure on parents or guardians.”

Families and individuals apply for consideration or are referred via social workers and other charities to both SVP and BCM before the mid-December cut off to ensure all children are accommodated with a relevant gift in time for Christmas.

Lois Payam, Head of Residential Services at BCM, said;

“What we do with the Giving Tree Appeal is offer an opportunity for those working within the Department for Communities to provide practical help to local families, with the gift going directly to the child. We are delighted that the partnership between the three organisations continues to help so many at Christmas.”

To learn about donating a gift and supporting local families this Christmas, contact Lorna Henry, Fundraising Manager at BCM on 028 9024 1917, or Pauline Brown, Regional Manager at SVP on 028 9035 1561.

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