In Simone Howard's living room, a pile of shoeboxes wrapped in Christmas paper are piled up on the coffee table, while several more are stacked on the floor in the corner.

She has a bag of toiletries and toys ready to sort and a number of boxes still waiting to be covered in seasonal wrapping.

Many people across Dorset and Hampshire take part in the various Christmas shoebox appeals, which send essential items and gifts out to children and adults in the UK and further afield, to Eastern Europe and Africa.

But for Simone, 71, the tradition is particularly close to her heart, as it was something her mother started off 55 years ago, in 1962.

"My mother, Daisy Greenwood, used to do a lot for different organisations," remembers Simone, who lives in New Milton.

"She was confined to home because she wasn't very well, so she did what she could from home. She wanted to do something for underprivileged children and the local elderly people as well.

"It was started with the help of Dr Douglas Snelgrove, who worked with children. Some boxes went to the elderly in local care homes. I was 16 at the time and all of us children had to collect donations and help with the packing before the doctor distributed them."

Simone and her siblings were sent round to local shops in their hometown of Luton, Bedfordshire, to collect shoeboxes to put the gifts in, which they then wrapped in Christmas paper.

"The whole reason they were called shoebox parcels was because we had donations from lots of people," she explains. "Some people gave us money to buy groceries and other people gave us things to put in the children’s boxes.

"We had to come up with a way of wrapping and sending them. We came up with the idea of shoeboxes. Over the years it's progressed - it was about just Africa, but now it's something like 22 countries and they have been sent to troops abroad."

Simone, who also uses the shoebox idea to make memory boxes with a craft class she teaches for New Milton library service, has so far put together 16 boxes this year, with the help of friends.

She plans to take the packages to her local hospice, and will give any leftover items to her veterinary nurse daughter, who will be travelling to Africa next year with her work, and will take the gifts to local orphanages.

"My mother is sadly deceased, but I still have the newspaper article about her collecting the shoeboxes," says Simone.

"It feels as if she left a lovely legacy in memory of her."

Samaritan's Purse International Relief UK - Operation Christmas Child

The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to show God's love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

Since 1990, more than 146 million children in over 150 countries have experienced God's love through the power of simple shoebox gifts from Operation Christmas Child.

To find out more about how you can help, or where to donate a shoebox for the appeal, visit

Rotary Shoebox Scheme

The Rotary Shoebox Scheme works with local schools, collages, companies, individuals and clubs to deliver shoeboxes to children and adults across Eastern Europe, not just at Christmas, but all year round.

To participate, you will need to pick up one of the Rotary's special shoeboxes which will identify you as a supporter of the Rotary Shoebox Scheme.

Visit to find out more, and to order a box to fill.

Rotary Wessex District 1110

A third scheme is operated locally by Rotary Wessex District 1110, which collects actual wrapped shoeboxes filled with gifts for children at Christmas time, which are shipped to Albania, Montenegro, Modova and Romania

To find out more, visit or email