By Peter Quinn
Due to the trauma and sacrifice of the last two years, combined with uncertainty about what the near future may hold due to the Omicron COVID-19 variant, it’s safe to say that this is not a typical festive period by any stretch of the imagination.
One parish community in Falkirk have hosted an event which aimed to provide unused and “as-new” toys to families who were struggling to provide loved ones with gifts this Christmas. The parishioners of St Francis Xavier’s church, led by parish priest Fr Jamie Boyle, organised a collection of toys, books and games, before welcoming families into the church hall a week later to redistribute these gifts to those who need them.
Through the generosity of the parish community and the efforts of an army of willing and tireless volunteers, over 100 families in the local area were helped this year with gifts. However, this generosity and effort to help others in the community is nothing new for this particular parish.
Angela Marr is a parishioner at St Francis Xavier’s and played a key role in organising and managing the toy collection and giveaway. She told UWS News that the community has been extremely proactive in helping those in need during the pandemic, with the toy giveaway just representing the most recent example of this.
“During the pandemic there were many families in our wider community who were struggling financially and our parish had a school uniform giveaway,” said Angela. “We also responded to a request for food for families, to alleviate holiday hunger when the schools were closed and free school meals were unavailable. The response from our parishioners was incredible.
“Following on from this we had an appeal to our parish for good quality toys to help those families who would find providing gifts for the children a real difficulty at Christmas. Again, the generosity of our parishioners was incredible.”
When asked about the importance of this generosity, particularly given the difficulties that the past two years have provided, Angela was keen to emphasise just how big a difference this can make to people’s Christmas.
“It’s vitally important.”Angela Marr
“All the parishioners who donated beautiful, brand-new gifts, and all the helpers who made the families feel welcome, were consciously choosing to help families who would otherwise be struggling. We created a sense of family- respectful of each person’s dignity, offering hope, love and a warm welcome with concrete and practical help.”
Another advantage of the toy giveaway is the environmental benefits that reusing gifts can bring. The packaging that is saved by this scheme can make a big difference in reducing the plastic which goes to waste every year at Christmas time. This comes soon after the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, as people around the world renew efforts to recycle and cut down on waste produced.