An idea that began four Christmas's ago by Levin Police will help hundreds of families put presents under the tree this festive season.
The Horowhenua Christmas Shoebox initiative, which began in 2015, was the brainchild of Police Horowhenua Prevention Manager Senior Sergeant Beth Purcell and Therase Apatu, a Senior Practitioner at Oranga Tamariki.
In that time Shoebox has grown into a huge community effort focused on bringing something special to children and their families at Christmas.
Back then Purcell and Apatu were both members of the Horowhenua Strengthening Families and decided to put some leftover funding to good use in the community.
The initiative flourished, with 250 children receiving boxes in the first year, and that number doubled the following year. Now, more than 1700 boxes are being donated.
The result was shoeboxes filled with presents designed to give Christmas cheer to children and their families who would otherwise miss out due to financial, medical or health related struggles.
Community service groups were asked to nominate families who fitted the criteria and these families were surprised with a box full of gifts on delivery day. Gifted items include food, toys, books, and clothing.
Purcell said they wanted the boxes to be special and filled with goodies that weren't everyday items.
"I can't praise the Horowhenua community including the District Council, area schools, and local businesses and organisations enough for their generosity, time and effort in making sure children thoroughly enjoy their Christmas and as well as alleviate some stress and pressure on their parents," she said.
Last year students from Horowhenua College also held a fundraising gala to help with the initiative and for the past three years the Levin Menz Shed community group donated a bevy of beautifully handmade toys.
"The whole thing has grown massively over the years. We have the most amazing feedback from Christmas Shoebox recipients, including tears, hugs and relief that their children will have something for Christmas," she said.
The boxes the presents go in were donated by a local business, and were put together by an army of community volunteers at the Levin Memorial Hall before their delivery.
"The goodwill in the community is tremendous and the children love filling shoeboxes for kids of similar age and gender. They also learn that some children are not as lucky as them and have to go without at Christmas," she said.
"This year Youth Aid, Community and Safer Whānau Team staff will help with the delivery which gives us a great opportunity to engage with children and their families. It is also a huge positive for police trust and confidence."