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Bromley shoppers show generosity to help deprived children get Christmas presents

PUBLISHED: 16:17 17 December 2013 | UPDATED: 16:17 17 December 2013

l-r Dawn Derham, Maria Cooper, the shopping centre's marketing manager and Major Brian Slinn of the Salvation Army

l-r Dawn Derham, Maria Cooper, the shopping centre's marketing manager and Major Brian Slinn of the Salvation Army

Archant

Christmas can be an expensive time for everyone but, for some families who are struggling to make ends meet during the rest of the year, it can be an especially difficult period.

The Salvation Army together with schools, offices and generous shoppers has been trying to relieve a bit of the pressure by getting presents for hundreds of the most deprived children in the borough.

A special Christmas tree was put up in the intu Bromley shopping centre in High Street in November adorned with hundreds of tiny hearts. On them were the names and ages of children who would otherwise not get a present this year.

The idea was people would take a heart from the tree and get that child a present.

The last day for people to get involved will be Christmas Eve when the tree will be taken down.

The organisers of the Gift from the Heart campaign – the Salvation Army in Ethelbert Road, Bromley – said it was humbled by the response.

It has collected more than 800 presents for children from new-born babies to 16-year- olds in Bromley and an extra 350 for children in other areas.

Dawn Derham, who is responsible for the Salvation Army’s community work in Bromley, said: “Our mission for Christmas is to get a child, who would not receive a present for Christmas otherwise, a gift.

“There’s a whole host of severely underprivileged people who might not get a gift unless someone gets one for them.”

She said that shoppers had been taking a heart off the tree and buying gifts, with popular choices including arts and crafts sets, toiletries for teenagers and even a toy hovercraft.

“We get some beautiful things,” she said. “There’s a whole range and array of toys. People are so wonderfully generous and that’s such a beautiful thing to see.”

The toys are delivered by the Salvation Army to parents struggling to make ends meet and they in turn wrap them up to give to their children on Christmas Day.

Mrs Derham said: “They always look relieved when we deliver them. That’s one of the reasons we don’t deal with second-hand toys. The child will open it on Christmas Day as if it’s a gift from their parents.”

It is not just shoppers who have been buying presents for underprivileged children but schools and offices have been getting involved too.

Maria Cooper, marketing manager at the shopping centre, said the Christmas tree had become a focus of the community and has been put up each year for more than a decade.

“It’s quite a long established family tradition with second generations coming and doing it as it’s something their family always did,” Mrs Cooper said.

“It’s quite humbling and they like choosing the child and then buying a gift.”

At any one time there are about 100 hearts on the tree with new ones added when people have bought presents for a particular child.

“It’s absolutely fantastic to be part of the scheme,” Mrs Cooper added. “It’s a real community event.”

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