IT is your chance to give a needy child something to smile about this Christmas.

The Hampshire Chronicle is launching its Christmas appeal this week for Winchester Basics Bank, which helps people going through hard times by giving them emergency food parcels and clothes.

We’re aiming to collect new toys for a special Santa delivery to youngsters seen by the charity who may otherwise have little or nothing under the tree this year.

In 2012-13, the charity helped 1,203 individuals, including 438 children.
They included the homeless, families in B&B, women fleeing domestic violence, the newly-unemployed waiting for benefits to start, and people who had found work but were between benefits ending and wages starting.

Centre manager Frances Rogers said for some children the donated toy would be their main present — and it could make a real difference.

“It will help take a lot of pressure off parents worrying about how they are going to buy food and survive the Christmas period,” she said.

“For some families who are really struggling it is a choice between food or presents for the children at Christmas.

“We can give them the basic foods plus some extra treats at Christmas, but the toy appeal means we will have some really lovely presents to give parents for their children to open on Christmas day.”

Hampshire Chronicle editor Keith Redbourn said: “Winchester Basics Bank does a wonderful job throughout the year and we are delighted to choose it for our Christmas charity appeal.

“Christmas can be a difficult time of year for many struggling to make ends meet, but for those forced to turn to the Basics Bank, it can be heartbreaking to see their children go without.

“We’re hoping our readers will buy a toy and support our Giving Tree appeal.

A giving tree is now up in the Chronicle’s front office at 5 Upper Brook Street in Winchester. Tags are hanging on the tree with the age and gender of a child.

Anyone can pick a tag and buy a gift to spread some Christmas cheer. The deadline for dropping off presents in the office is 12 noon, Monday, December 9.

Only brand new toys are wanted and should be left unwrapped so parents can choose the most suitable present for their child when they collect a food parcel.

People in need are given vouchers for the Basics Bank by charities such as the Trinity Centre and Salvation Army which they exchange for parcels of tinned and dried food and second hand clothes.

Also needed are donations of food which will be included in festive food parcels. Most basic tinned and dried food are suitable, but also welcome are special treats such as biscuits.

Contributions of food can be dropped off at the Basics Bank at 21a Penton Place, off Milland Road, Highcliffe, or a special trolley in Sainsbury’s at Badger Farm.

The centre is currently short of tinned vegetables, UHT milk, jars of pasta sauce, tinned spaghetti, instant coffee (small jars), tinned fish and meat, sweet and savoury spreads.