The annual appeal for boxes full of goodwill and goodies for needy families has gone out to people in Lewis and Harris, with the deadline fast approaching to get your donations in for Blythswood’s Christmas shoebox appeal.

With a changed drop-off point and slightly later return date, there’s a call now for shoeboxes filled with warm clothes, toiletries, toys and treats to brighten someone’s winter days in a harsh part of the world.

The unique Scottish charity appeal annually sees a tremendous return from Lewis and Harris. Last year the islands sent 1,500 filled shoeboxes destined for Romania, which added to a total of 115,932 sent to Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Kosovo, Moldova, Pakistan, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine.

Pre-wrapped shoeboxes are available if you don’t have your own empty box and a checklist of what kind of items to place inside is available both from the Blythswood shop in Kenneth Street, Stornoway or online from https://www.blythswood.org/shoebox

Givers are encouraged to choose whether they are creating a gift for a girl or boy, or for a grown-up or elderly man or woman, and then to select gifts based on the approved checklist. Warm hats and gloves, soap and shampoo and handy items like tools, toothbrushes or stationery are among ideas for what to put inside.

The collection depot has changed this year and will be at the Drill Hall on Church Street, Stornoway. It will be open for donations between 3 and 7pm on Wednesday November 7th, 3-7pm on Thursday November 8th and 2-7pm on Friday November 9th.

Volunteers to help check and pack the boxes are welcomed, even if only for an hour. Just turn up at the Drill Hall and offer your services for a warm welcome.

Shoeboxes are taken across to Blythswood’s HQ depot at Evanton by island hauliers, to be added to the growing collection for distribution.

This year two representatives from the national office will join the collection team in Stornoway to give their personal thanks to the people of the islands for years of dedication to the charity.In Harris, there are still pre-wrapped empty shoeboxes available to collect from Sir E Scott school office, each containing the checklist leaflet which advises what items to put in. The deadline to return filled boxes to the school is Wednesday November 7th and the uplift to Stornoway will be on Friday 9th.

There’s a special poignancy to the appeal this year in Harris, as the wrapped empty boxes were all lovingly prepared by Mairi ‘Strachan’ Macleod of Seilebost, who passed away earlier in October. A spokeswoman for the Blythswood shoebox appeal in Harris said: “Our thoughts and prayers remain with her family and all who knew her, at this sad time. It is a reminder of all the unseen work Mairi did for her community over the years.”