By Tim Nuttall
Following its successful launch last year, the operators of a local toy bank are busy preparing for their 2023 Christmas campaign with a request for donations to help bring festive cheer to disadvantaged children and young people this winter.
Last year, thanks to the generosity of the community, donations of toys, books and games to the Phoebe’s Wish Toy Bank were successfully circulated to a large number of families in and around Withernsea.
The inspiration for the toy bank, which is based at the town’s Shores centre, came from the fundraising efforts of its namesake, Phoebe Spokes, who aspired to raise money to buy
a selection of books and toys for a one-off Christmas grotto event last year.
To help achieve this, the then 13-year-old Phoebe, who has special educational needs, set herself the challenge of walking back and forth along the town’s promenade, with the aim of covering 15 miles over three days.
However, such was her determination that the youngster achieved her target in just one day – raising £200 through donations and sponsorship in the process.
This money helped to buy a selection of gifts which were handed out as part of a Santa’s Grotto event at Shores last December. Around the same time, the centre received numerous donations of presents suitable for children – including a sizeable collection from the town’s branch of MKM Building Supplies which, in the run-up to Christmas, had collected toys alongside non-perishable food items for the benefit of the centre’s food bank.
Despite a huge demand for items last year, with gifts successfully circulated to those most in need, there were still a number of items left over which led to the idea of creating an all- year-round provision to support disadvantaged children. This sparked a conversation between Phoebe’s mother, Penny, and Shores CEO Jayne Nendick and the idea of the toy bank was born. Commenting at the time of the toy bank’s launch, Jayne said: “This is the start of a longer journey and a legacy which Phoebe can be proud of. Phoebe’s story is a really positive one which goes to show that anyone, no matter their circumstances, can bring positive change to the world
“We hope that with the support of the community, and continuing donations, the toy bank will still be here in years to come for the benefit of those most in need. Those who use it will probably never know Phoebe, and she’ll never know them, but her actions will go on to support families across our community. Her gift of kindness will continue to evolve.”
Throughout 2023, items from the toy bank have been accessible to families and individuals in need through referrals from various established agencies including the children’s centre, police and ward councillors.
Now, with Christmas fast approaching, the toy bank’s operators are requesting donations of unwanted gifts, books, toys and games to help maintain its provision into 2024. All donations will be welcomed at the Shores centre, where they will be cleaned, checked for safety and packaged up ready for distribution.
Penny Spokes, Phoebe’s mother and toy bank coordinator, said: “Following the success of last year’s grotto, we are hoping to fill 48 sacks with age-appropriate presents for children this Christmas. We have four age categories, 0 to five
years, five to 10 years, 10 to 15 years and SEND (0 to 25). Phoebe herself is once again keen to support the toy bank and will be helping to wrap presents and decorate the packaging used with festive designs.”
To access this year’s Christmas toy bank, members of the community are invited to complete a nomination form, available from the Shores Centre, which will allow them to nominate a deserving recipient. Forms are also available at Withernsea Children’s Centre and both the primary and high schools for staff members to nominate families identified as needing additional support. It is anticipated that the sacks will be distributed the week beginning Monday, December 11.
Meanwhile, in an effort to help raise funds for wrapping paper and additional gifts for the toy bank, a tombola will take place at Withernsea’s branch of Aldi on Sunday, November 26, between 10am and 4pm. Donations of suitable items for the tombola will also be gratefully accepted at Shores in the run-up to the event.
Penny is also planning on participating in her fifth Boxing Day dip where she hopes additional sponsorship will help kick-start the toy bank’s fundraising efforts for 2024.
For further information about the Phoebe’s Wish Toy Bank, or to request a nomination form for a Christmas sack, contact Shores on 01964 615190 or visit them at 29-31 Seaside Road, Withernsea.