A TEAM of 140 volunteers are working like Santa’s elves to sort through donations for this year’s Christmas shoebox appeal in Dorset.

The Mayor of Christchurch, Cllr Peter Hall, officially cut the ribbon on Monday to kick-start the sorting work of Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

Last year, there were 22,246 boxes going through the sorting office at the Samaritans Purse warehouse, on Grovely Road, and this year, the Dorset-area co-ordinators, Peter and Eileen Ivermee, are hoping for even more.

Mayor of Christchurch, Cllr Peter Hall, who brought his own filled shoebox to add to the collection, said: “It’s a great pleasure to come along and be involved in the appeal.

“To see the photos of the children it goes to, and to see the smiles on their faces, it is marvellous, and without the work of the volunteers this just wouldn’t be possible.”

Peter said: “We’ve got around 140 volunteers, of which 25 come in every day to help. We work all through the week, including Saturday morning, and we’ll be here until the second week of December.

“We handle around 1,000 boxes a day, from nearly 200 schools and over 100 churches and organisations, from Dorset and Hampshire. It spans from Lymington to Lyme Regis.

Eileen added: “The main thing is that it is not too late to do a box, if people want to.

“The website says we’re collecting up until November 18, but we will still take them until the end of November, providing people can drop them off to us, and some collection points may still take them.”

The shoeboxes are then shipped out via three lorries and distributed to poor and needy children across 11 Eastern European countries, and five African countries.

Peter and Eileen say that the boxes go to children who may never have received a present.

For more information, go to: Operationchristmaschild.org.uk, or alternatively, call the Grovely Road warehouse on 01202 475708.