ELBA Toy Appeal 2020 – The most important Toy Appeal ever

Written by Diora Emechete, ELBA Challenge team Project Manager, and currently SHIFT25 Project Manager

2020 has been a difficult year for many children due to COVID-19 and its consequences; families surviving on minimal income, experiencing grief, centres and clubs closing, adverse impact on education, mental health… the list goes on. Therefore, this makes ELBA’s annual Toy Appeal the most important one to date. From the 23rd of November until the 18th of December, ELBA will be collecting, sorting, and distributing what we hope will be an expected 10,000 toys to support children and families in need. Their day to day lives, financial situations and mental health have been heavily impacted and children are facing worries and experiencing challenges that no child should be facing. With Christmas around the corner, relying heavily on your support, we hope to create some normality and joy for these children during these unprecedented and unpredictable times.         

With lockdown and social distancing, this year’s Toy Appeal will undoubtedly be different. In previous years, ELBA received in-person volunteering support from hundreds of volunteers who participated in Toy sorting, Toy Dashes and came into the Toy Appeal Grotto to help sort and pack the toys, ready for distribution. Understandably, this year we are unable to receive in-person volunteering support which is always crucial during the two-week time frame the appeal runs for. The Challenge team have therefore decided to sort and give out the toys over a 4-week period this year instead and our grotto will be located centrally in Canary Wharf retail centre, thanks to the generosity and support of Canary Wharf Group.

Every year, we receive generous donations from companies – 50 participated last year. Usually, a great number of toys are donated through collection points in offices and through the Toy Dash. As most of us are working from home this year and are unable to donate toys in this traditional way, we have arranged alternative methods:

  1. fundraising through our JustGivingPage which would be ideal for those unable purchase or drop off gifts
  2. John Lewis Gift Lists and an additional Amazon Wish List this year
  3. Shop local – donors are encouraged to support local independent businesses and purchase a toy through local sellers, arranging delivery to ELBA or dropping off directly to the grotto. An additional bonus is that from 2nd December (subject to national restrictions) the grotto will be available to take in donations of toys during the weekday and weekends.   

To give the children a little extra this year, we have also organised a virtual volunteering opportunity to write letters from Santa. Letter writing sessions will be held over Zoom or via your company’s online conference system. Volunteers will send the letters to the Grotto and we will make sure to include them with the toy donations.

It is a sad reality that over 200,000 children in east and north London are living in poverty and may not receive a toy during the festive season. The toys that will be donated during the Toy Appeal only address a small part of the problem as there is a real need for every child to experience a fun Christmas. We encourage all to get involved this year and spread the word to your family, friends, and colleagues to also support us. Donations usually amass to 10,000 toys and we would like to aim higher this year and reach more children than ever before.

The 60 charities receiving toys and letters include community centres, organisations working with families, adventure playgrounds, hospitals, food banks, refugee groups, women’s refuges, schools and nurseries. The families and children the community groups work with come from a range of backgrounds and may be fleeing domestic violence, fleeing war zones and conflict, living in extreme poverty, living in temporary accommodation or are children caring for older relatives. The generosity of everyone that donates a toy brings a small bit of happiness to a child and relieves some of the pressure families can feel around Christmas. A support worker from Hestia, one of the benefiting charities commented:

“A stranger, who the child will never meet, has shown kindness and care, two things that these children have little experience of. A gift given with Christmas, will make them start to realise that the world isn’t such a bad place after all. And that, in my opinion, is the start to their journey of recovery.”

Are you or your organisation keen to get involved in the Toy Appeal by donating or hosting a letter from Santa writing session? We encourage all to take part as we are in great need of toy donations; each toy will make a difference to a child. Please contact Shifa Uddin (Shifa.Uddin@elba-1.org.uk) for more information.

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