Nicola Wicks (right), regional coordinator of the Santa Shoebox Project, and volunteer Thuli Rabe make sure needy children also have an exciting Christmas! Photo: Supplied.
GARDEN ROUTE NEWS - "This community is beyond doubt the most compassionate and generous."
Profound words indeed considering they come from this year's organiser of the Knysna Santa Shoebox Project, Nicola Wicks, who co-ordinated the project for Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and Sedgefield areas, but is a national organiser and has been running the KwaZulu-Natal Santa Shoebox project for the past five years.
“Bravo on all your hard work! A year not without its challenges but one certainly punctuated by amazing successes,” said Wicks.
The Santa Shoebox Project originated in Cape Town and has grown in leaps and bounds, with the number of Santa Shoeboxes growing from a humble 180 boxes in 2006 to an astounding 109 930 in 2014. The boxes are distributed to more than 1 000 recipient facilities, through more than 60 satellites around South Africa and Namibia.
Regional co-ordinator, Nicola Wicks, said the success of the project can largely be attributed to its personal nature. “Donors give gifts to children whose names, ages and genders are known,” she said.
Wicks, who has been a volunteer for this worthy project for approximately four years, goes out every year to find poverty-stricken children at places such as schools, home-based places of child-care, crèches and children’s homes, “but I don’t just go to registered places; I try to find those children who really are impoverished”, she said.
Wicks explained that many of these kids have never received Christmas presents in their lives before. This year, Wicks with the help of the community aimed to raise 2 000 boxes.
Wicks said that she was astounded by the generosity of the residents of Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and Sedgefield. “I’m absolutely blown-away. Their passion, their love ... what they’ve done filling those boxes.”
Wicks added that the staff at Knysna Municipality’s also pledged gift boxes as well as the Knysna SAPS. “They are the first police force to have pledged boxes which will go to two local crèches,” she said.
Wicks said, one of her biggest thanks, went to Oakhill School who donated 600 boxes. "The parents and children there are incredible,” she exclaimed.
Then there were other extraordinary gestures from members of the community said Wicks like: “This is the best thing I have ever done. It’s my baby’s first birthday and so we asked everyone to pledge shoe boxes on her behalf instead of buying her a present.”
“It was my mom’s 80th birthday this year and she asked all family and friends to pledge boxes for the Santa Shoebox Project in Knysna in lieu of both flowers and gifts," said somebody else.
“Thank you all you wonderful, wonderful people for running this extraordinary project. What an incredible weekend! Thank you to everyone who dropped of their shoe boxes or volunteered to help at a drop off point. An especially big thanks to all our co-ordinators and sub-co-ordinators across the country who have been working for months to make this year's Santa Shoebox Project such a wonderful success once again," said Wicks.
Wicks also said: “A big shout out to the Knysna mayor and the speaker and employees of the Knysna Municipality as well as SAPS Knysna and Community Police Forum for their generous contributions towards the Santa Shoe Box project.”
“Thank you in abundance to the amazing staff and parents from Oakhill School who alone brought in nearly 600 pledges for the Santa Shoebox Project.
"Thank you to the incredible girls who ran a secret auction to bring in extra funds to make up more boxes which meant even more happy hearts. Thank you to the community for so generously supporting them.
"Thank you to the manager and staff of The Turbine Hotel for allowing us the freedom to both coordinate and celebrate this project in such glorious surroundings.
"Thank you Naturally Solar and Wrap-It in Knysna, who opened their doors to floods of boxes and have allowed us to sort and organise without feeling like intruders.
Thank you to my fabulous teams in Plettenberg Bay and Sedgefield who quietly and meticulously handled drop offs for me and a special and grateful thanks to Penny Foyn and Doné Els, Tamar Kahts, and Claudia Pirker," said Wicks.
Cheryl Britz of the Community Police Forum helping with Santa Shoebox project. All photos by Elle Photography.
A successful Santa Shoebox, straight from the heart.