7,000 toys and counting – that’s ELBA

 In Blog, CEO's blog, Community

Christmas can be a difficult time for families, particularly if it is hard to make ends meet. The UK economy is the fifth largest in the world, and London is at the heart of a growing and prosperous nation. However, we know that these facts cloak a high level of inequality, and nowhere more stark than in London.

The use of foodbanks reported by the Trussell Trust is rising, with just under 50,000 people in London making use of emergency food packages in the six months to September 2016 – and the Trussell Trust is estimated by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger to represent just half of all foodbank users – so somewhere around 100,000 people in just six months. The Child Poverty Action Group reports that 700,000 children in London are living below the poverty line – and five of the top seven most affected boroughs are in the area that ELBA serves.

It’s no surprise therefore that at Christmas time parents and families will find it hard to find the spare money to buy presents for children. It’s doubly hard with the hard-nosed commercialism and advertising which surrounds Christmas and which starts in September (said Scrooge).

But ELBA business and community partners are having none of that. Every year ELBA runs our Christmas Toy Appeal which gathers presents from our business partners and distributes them to the community organisations who are working with hard pressed families and children.

I have been to our Grotto to see the operation in full swing – in reality, the back of a warehouse loaned to us by our friends at Community Food Enterprise. Heaps of toys come in at the front, get sorted into age ranges and go out in boxes to the specification of community organisations. Last year 6,000 toys were donated with a value of over £70,000. This year, with 5 days to go we have already beaten that record with over 7,000 toys donated. The generosity of our supporters and partners is humbling and I would like to thank them all – it is really appreciated.

Talking to the volunteers from the businesses who come along to help with the task of sorting and picking, and to the community organisations coming in to collect their boxes, I got an insight into the motivations of both groups. Tremendous and unstinting generosity from the businesses and a realisation that we all inhabit the same city; and determination from the community organisations to make Christmas happy for the children they work with. It’s a winning combination, alternatively moving, joyful, heart-warming and uplifting. It’s knocked me out of my default Bah Humbug approach to Christmas and I have to acknowledge that whether you celebrate Christmas or not, it is a time when symbolically we can work together to make things better for our community. 7,000 toys and counting – that’s ELBA.

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