Reverse advent calendar boxes helps families in need

Maureen Lillywhite and volunteer Katie Nicholson with donated household items put from the reverse advent campaign.
Maureen Lillywhite and volunteer Katie Nicholson with donated household items put from the reverse advent campaign.
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Volunteers handed out food and gift boxes to families in need yesterday, following an appeal to that aimed to harness the spirit of Christmas.

Maureen Lillywhite, 66, a community worker for Meanwood, launched the reverse advent calendar campaign last month.

Instead of opening a chocolate advent window, Mrs Lillywhite asked people to donate an item every day from the start of December until Christmas Eve.

More than 150 boxes were collected, filled with food and other household items, and were handed out at Stainbeck Church to help low-income families cope with the long month ahead.

Mrs Lillywhite, who lives in Burmantofts, said: “This will make a huge difference to families who struggle to afford Christmas and have very little money left to last them through January.

“The reverse advent calendar is really helping to support those families who wouldn’t survive without.”

A few of the boxes were given out earlier to help put people in emergency situations and Mrs Lillywhite said they have been a lifeline for people.

She said: “One woman was in tears of relief when I gave her a box because she was worrying about how she would feed her children.

“Another lady who came out of hospital on Boxing Day had no food in the house until she got a box and she was so grateful she has been sending me pictures of the meals she’s cooked.”

Mrs Katie Nicholson, 27, from Killingbeck, also volunteered as part of the reverse advent ca lender campaign.

The primary care support manager said: “I’ve come from a family of women that have always worked hard to look after people in the community.

“It’s important we support people in need and I wanted to help Maureen as she really is a pillar of the community.”

Mrs Lillywhite plans to do the reverse advent calender again next year after receiving overwhelming positive feedback.

She said: “The Meanwood community have been so supportive and have really got behind us – it’s amazing.

“We had one collection in Meanwood Park and left will two van-fulls of donations and the boxes are still coming in.

“I never expected it to be as successful as it has been and I’m so grateful to everyone involved.”

Volunteer Katie Nicholson, has thanked reverse advent calendar organiser, Maureen Lillywhite, as part of the Big Thank You Leeds campaign.

The Yorkshire Evening Post backed campaign gives people a chance to recognise the ‘Winter Heroes’ in their community.

Katie Nicholson, who works for the local NHS said: “I’d like to say a really big thank you to Maureen who works hard all year round working within communities in Leeds.

”She works tirelessly to make sure that as many people as possible receive something at Christmas whether this be a Christmas hamper, food and clothes donations, winter warmers for the elderly and toys for children all so that families and elderly who struggle don't go without.

The YEP has teamed up with the Big Thank You campaign to help tell the stories of those who are nominated.

They could be a carer, neighbour, doctor, nurse, colleague, or simply a friend, who helps to keep the city going during winter.

As part of the campaign, people can use the hashtags #BigThanksLeeds and #BeAWinterHero on social media to get involved.

People who put someone forward for praise will be asked if they want to then be contacted by the YEP, to share the inspirational story of their chosen winter hero to the whole of Leeds.

You can nominate your own Winter Hero on the Big Thank You website here: www.bigthankyouleeds.co.uk