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'Santa box' homeless gift drive goes virtual

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Anthony Flynn of ICHH with some of his elves’ Santa boxes

Anthony Flynn of ICHH with some of his elves’ Santa boxes

PA

Anthony Flynn of ICHH with some of his elves’ Santa boxes

Nearly 10,000 homeless people will receive a "Santa box" filled with Christmas gifts and goodies this week after a charity overcame Covid-19 challenges to run its annual appeal.

Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) holds an annual "fill a Luas" event, where people are urged to donate shoeboxes wrapped in Christmas paper and filled with gifts and essential goods for the homeless.

The boxes are then gifted to people who are rough-sleeping or in emergency accommodation, hotels and B&Bs across the capital.

More than 20,000 Santa boxes were donated last year, but the fundraising effort was put in jeopardy this year by the coronavirus pandemic.

ICHH chief Anthony Flynn said the conventional appeal was expected to take only 10pc of the norm, so everything was moved online.

"This year we've had to do things differently," he said.

The charity hopes the appeal will help make up for some of the €200,000 worth of fundraising it has already missed out on due to virus restrictions.

Donors can pick whether the present goes to an adult or a child, and each box will be packed by volunteer elves adhering strictly to Covid-19 rules at its Glasnevin warehouse.

Donors are encouraged to include a message to the recipient, and these are handwritten by ICHH volunteers.

Once packed, the presents will be delivered by volunteers to homeless people before Christmas Day.

"People can go online and donate a Santa box, but that means we have to ensure that those Santa boxes get packed," Mr Flynn said.

He admitted that getting the project off the ground had been difficult because of maintaining social distance.

"Our elves that are here working in the warehouse are under a lot of stress and strain, and everybody's doing that voluntarily," Mr Flynn added.

Cope

He said demand for ICHH services has soared since the onset of the pandemic.

"Christmas is a happy time for so many, but it's a sad time as well for so many people living in emergency accommodation," he said.

"What we aim to do is try and put some joy into those people's lives and ensure they have what they need and that they can cope through the Christmas period."

Around 120 people sleep rough on the streets of Dublin every night.


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