Hundreds of Rotorua children will not go without this Christmas after being given a shoebox of new gifts thanks to the generosity of locals led by Jacque Webber.

Each year, Webber would do her bit for those in need at Christmas.

She'd lovingly decorate and wrap shoeboxes and fill them with brand new gifts for needy children overseas for an international organisation called Operation Shoebox.

But this year, she thought, no.

Advertisement

In her role as a community nurse she knows only too well there is need locally, so this time she wanted to do something for Rotorua's own children.

She figured a few of her friends might want to do up some shoeboxes too so she set up an event on Facebook called Rotorua Shoebox Appeal, inviting people to bring wrapped and decorated shoeboxes filled with new gifts for different age groups and genders to her house.

Jacque Webber finds a gap in her lounge to sit among the shoeboxes of gifts she's collected for Rotorua children. Photo / Supplied
Jacque Webber finds a gap in her lounge to sit among the shoeboxes of gifts she's collected for Rotorua children. Photo / Supplied

Hundreds started to roll in and before long her lounge was overtaken with boxes containing thousands of dollars worth of presents, each hand-selected for a specific age group or gender.

Webber said each box was up to the individual, but she didn't allow weapons or lollies.

"Some of the boxes were just bulging. And not just that but the time they had spent on each one decorating them. Families have told me they loved spending time together doing the boxes as a project and giving their kids lessons about giving to others."

Webber and her team of helpers, including Lynda Vercoe, Shirley Day, Wai McClure-Bennett and Maxine Parker, set about delivering the boxes to eight schools and four childcare centres listed as low decile.

In total 401 boxes were given out.

Shirley Day (left) and Lynda Vercoe wrap donated presents. Photo / Supplied
Shirley Day (left) and Lynda Vercoe wrap donated presents. Photo / Supplied

Despite the massive effort, the humble Webber said it wasn't too hard, saying it wouldn't have been possible without so many people wanting to give.

She said she wanted to thank companies that donated to her cause too, including Holdson that gave puzzles and games, Life Pharmacy and the Rotorua Lakes Council that gave her leftover items from fun days.

"Being a community nurse, I see a number of families out there struggling."

Jacque Webber (centre) and her helpers load the shoeboxes for delivery. Photo / Supplied
Jacque Webber (centre) and her helpers load the shoeboxes for delivery. Photo / Supplied

Meanwhile, Sunset Primary School principal Niels Rasmussen said the donation from Webber, as well as other presents donated to the school by local man Neil Oliver and his family and friends, meant the school was able to give every pupil at their school a present or shoebox.

The school has 127 students and 135 were given out, a few extras for siblings and other preschoolers connected to the school, he said.

"The Sunset staff and myself have been overwhelmed by the generosity of people and grateful to both Jacque Webber and Neil Oliver and their helpers for the beautiful gifts brought to the school.

"This meant that each child could go home with a Christmas 'care and share' smile."