By Becca Husselbee
A married couple who set up an non-profit company that enabled them to delivered thousands of presents to unprivileged children over the festive season have been inundated with call for more gifts.
Phil Boulding and his wife Karen, both 58, set up the company Secret Santa Ltd, back in July last year, as a way of giving back to their local community in the area of Blackburn and Darwen and making sure children from poor backgrounds had presents to open on Christmas day.
But this year the pair, from Darwen, Lancashire, have seen a massive increase in poor families needing their ‘sacks of joy’ which includes teddies, football and puzzles.
Phil, a retired project manager, said: “Me and Karen love Christmas and we had always to start up some kind of Charitable organisation to give back to the community.
“We were totally unaware back then of how many families were really struggling until we started this project and in our first year planned to help around 200 children.
“But we quickly realised that it was more like 700 and refused to let the other 500 go without.
“We got in touch with a lady from Manchester, who donated teddies to us, and asked it it was possibly to get more, she wanted to help so much that she sent 800.
“This year we wanted to make 750 and the local children’s services asked if we could do more. We ended up making 905 over the last two weekends.”
Phil and Karen run the buisness from their home and struggle to move with all the donations made by local business as well as toys bought through donation made to the Secret Santa Go Fund Me page.
The managing director and founder’s home has been taken over by mountains of toys as they prepared the bags for babaies, boys and girls aged three to 11 and teenagers aged 12 to 17, with a team over around 20 volunteers.
Each bag contains a selection box, a football or skipping rope, a board game or puzzle, a teddy bear and main present worth around £10, with slight variations depend on age and gender.
All the sacks are then taken to the eight different local children centres in a van donated by the Evan Halshaw car dealership in Manchester, and handed out to parents so they can wrap them ready for Christmas day.
Phil said: “The support we have had is phenomenal.
“Local businesses donate around 30% of the gifts while the other 70% are purchased through donations made to the Go Fund Me page.
“I was driving the van that was kindly donated and decorated for us and a group of children saw me at a zebra crossing.
“They were so excited and started shouting, ‘Santa’s coming’.”
Last year Secret Santa was able to deliever the present through £23,500 worth of donations but this year will see an even higher number with more families struggle to get by on Christmas day.
Phil said: “People also approached us about helping the elderly and so we set up a Christmas dinner last year for around 100 people. They loved it so much that we had 250 this year.”
The couple are now aiming to take on even more families next year so that no children are left without presents at Christmas
“When you sit at home on Christmas day and think of all the Children who will be getting presents the would have never got otherwise, it’s such a great feeling.
“Some of these families can’t even afford to put food on the table let alone buy presents.”