Santa Stork 2021 – Christmas giving with choice, kindness and dignity.

Stripey Stork Campaigns

Gifts distributed

(Includes late requests)

5,414 children
2,108 parents/carers
7,522 gifts in total
3,179 families helped
£129,544 estimated value of gifts

As Christmas approached and we started to plan our 8th Santa Stork project, one thing was clear to us – if 2020 was the year that changed the world, 2021 was the year the economic impact landed.   We’d seen a significant increase in referrals at the warehouse and it stood to reason that if families were struggling to afford the basics, Christmas was going to be extremely difficult for them.  Once again, we prepared to significantly scale up our operations, aware that many more families would be needing our help.

Santa Stork is only possible because our wonderful community pulls together every year.  People donate a gift, spread the word, and volunteer their time.  This blog is a celebration of all those who came together to make this amazing project happen.

Grab a cuppa and a mince pie, and read on…

The Santa Stork difference

We believe there are three things that make Santa Stork unique: Choice, Dignity and Care.

Choice: Our catalogue of gifts means that parents can choose the gift that their child will really like, something which reflects their child’s unique personality and interests rather than whatever happens to have been donated.  We’re told that for many of the families referred to us, the gift from Santa Stork will be the only or main gift the child receives so we want it to be something that they will really love.

Dignity: We include a roll of wrapping paper, sellotape and gift tags so that parents/carers can wrap the gifts for their children.  This was something which started because of COVID-19 restrictions, but we received feedback that families loved being involved in the process in this way, so it is something we have continued.

Care: there are lots of thoughtful details that go into Santa Stork – the sticky labels on each of the gift bags peel off cleanly so that families can remove all traces of Stripey Stork’s admin and give the gift from the big man himself!  We consider the ongoing cost of the gift – if it needs batteries, we provide them; every football comes with a pump so that it can be re-inflated and art sets come with a sketch pad.  We like to include a wrapped gift for the parents/carers where our referral partners feel this is appropriate too so that everyone has something to open on Christmas Day.

A survey of our referral partners revealed that 25% were expecting to make more referrals to Santa Stork than they had the previous year. Our referral base had already grown during the year so we set ourselves the daunting task of scaling up to provide a Christmas gift for 5,000 children who might otherwise go without.

And so it begins…

Preparations began before the summer break when we started to look for suitable premises.  A project on the size and scale of Santa Stork takes up a considerable amount room and having a space which is separate from the warehouse enables our core team to continue their important work without disruption.

We were grateful when Reigate & Banstead Borough Council offered us an empty office building to use.  With a massive 16,000 square feet, it ticked all the boxes as a secure, central location with plenty of space and parking.  We got the keys on 1st October and started to set up “Santa’s workshop”.  Our friends at Furnistore, Reigate Grammar School, Reigate College, Pathfinder Scouts and Morrisons Solictors all loaned us the furniture and equipment that we needed to make the empty building into a functional space.

The project team of dreams was then assembled, and we started to source all the things that we needed, searching around for the best prices and negotiating bulk discounts – Christmas gift bags, wrapping paper and stocking fillers.  One of our Elves, Chris became a regular visitor at the local supermarkets filling her car with selection boxes when they were on offer! All we needed now was the gift requests.

Santa’s Toy List

Working once again with local toy retailer Toy Barnhaus, we put together a catalogue of 76 Christmas gifts for children aged 0-18.  We canvassed the opinions of children and young people to ensure that the catalogue has a good range for everyone – seeing their eyes light up told us that we were on the right track!  Toy Barnhaus were able to advise us on which toys were new/popular and to help us navigate the supply chain issues that have been a problem for many retailers this year.  To ensure that we are getting the best value for money they price-match high street retailers and give us an additional 10% discount too.

Once finalised, the catalogue was shared with our referral partners for them to sit down with the families they support to choose a suitable gift.

All gift options were added to our online Santa Shop so that our amazing supporters could go onto the website and pledge a gift for a local child.  Our Santa Shop was once again a very popular and people told us how they enjoyed being able to sit down and choose a toy from the comfort of their own home, knowing that they were making a huge difference to a child’s Christmas.  We’re grateful to Matt and Faye at Oh Creative for their technical support bringing the shop back to life.

Requests started to flood in from our referral partners and our team of trusty Elves got to work putting them together.  As well as the main gift which had been chosen specifically for that child, we include an age-appropriate stocking filler.  We’re grateful to Booktrust, World of Books, Squires Garden Centre and CTS Dental who donated stocking fillers, and to Reigate & Redhill Round Table 119 who donated £1,000 for us to spend on the chocolate coins and selection boxes that we include for children aged 4-13.

We are always thrilled when companies contact us to offer product donations and this year our friends at Gibson’s Games generously donated 350 Krispy Kreme jigsaw puzzles which were suitable for 12-18 year olds.  We received lots of requests for teenagers this year, so it was great to be able to supplement their gift bags with these quality puzzles.

Our friends at Puzzler magazine had been talking about us to their contacts, and Marvin’s Magic kindly donated sets of their magic pens which are a lovely gift for children aged 5-11.

Gamely Games got in touch to ask us which areas we were short of and kindly donated 48 of their fantastic games. These original games are aimed at children 3-8 years and are a treat that the whole family can play together.

As well as the all-important gifts and stocking fillers, each family is provided with a roll of wrapping paper, tape and gift tags so that the parents/carers are able to wrap the gifts.  Thank you to our friends at Sal’s Shoes who got in touch with their contacts at Banners to source a donation of 2,000 rolls of tape for us.

Santa’s Elves

We have a wonderful team of volunteer Elves who work very hard throughout November and December to sort and pack every gift.  They generously give up their time and they always arrive with a big smile and a festive jumper! They put so much care and attention into each package that goes out. 

We love our many corporate partners who support the project in various ways – holding fundraisers, spreading the word, and buying gifts from the Santa Shop.  Some went even further this year and helped at Santa’s workshop for the day!  Thank you to LNRS, Grant Thornton International, Oxted Classic Cars, Bytes Software, The Belfry Shopping Centre, Redhill Business Guild, Osborne, Dorking Inner Wheel, Croydon Whitgift Rotary, Reigate Hill Golf Club, Healys Solicitors, Morrisons Law, Partners Group, Celtic Contractors and the Mayor of Reigate & Banstead who all gave up their valuable time to become Elves for a day.

Everyone included

We believe that everyone should have a gift to open on Christmas Day, so we like to make sure that siblings are included, and parents/carers too where our referral partners feel this is appropriate.  Thanks to a generous donation from Tropic and The Hygiene Bank we were able to include some lovely gift sets for mums/dads too.

We’d also like to thank our friends at LNRS who donated 100 toiletry sets for parents/carers, and they organised a virtual wrapping event for their teams too – a lovely idea to include staff who are currently working from home.

Jingle all the way!

Once the gifts were ready, referral partners came to collect them.  Seeing the gifts going out is always very heart-warming and our referral partners are always so incredibly grateful as they know what a difference it will make to these families who face such hardship.   We know how hard our referral partners work, so it was lovely to be able to give them a little gift from our friends at Tropic.

Some of our referral partners are unable to get to us within our opening hours to collect their gifts, so another way that people can help us is by turning their vehicle into a sleigh for the day!  We were grateful to some of our lovely volunteers and our friends at Morrisons Solicitors, HPS Redhill, Osborne, Raven Housing and Celtic who all delivered gifts for us.

Santa Stork in the spotlight

As the list of requests grows each year, we need to work even harder to secure the support for the project. Spreading the word about the importance of the project became even more vital this year.

A feature in Yours magazine was a great boost – and our Chief Elf Donna even featured on the front cover!

That’s TV interviewed our Chief Executive, Nicola on two occasions and we were able to share the clips on our social media channels.

BBC Radio Surrey visited the project and talked to our team and referral partners. It was great to welcome Adrian Harms to the see the project in action. Sharing the story to a broader audience brought more support.

An opportunity too good to miss

We’re always on the lookout for funding opportunities and when we spotted that Crowdfunder had some match-funding available from the National Emergencies Trust, we were quick to apply.  The funding was only available for organisations helping people who have been impacted by the pandemic and Stripey Stork was one of the charities chosen.  £10,000 in match-funding was available, we knew it would make a huge difference to the number of families we would be able to help.  Thanks to our wonderful Team Stork supporters who pledged and spread the word, we managed to secure every penny of that available £10,000.

The figures speak for themselves

The results from previous years show much the local need has escalated. We knew that the end of the furlough scheme, the end to the uplift in Universal Credit and the rise in fuel prices would all play their part, but the increase is stark.

  • Santa Stork 2021: 5,414 children/ 2,108 adults = 7,522 (an increase from 2020 of 45%)
  • Santa Stork 2020: 3,631 children/1,537 adults = 5,168
  • Santa Stork 2019: 2276 children/1047 adults = 3,323
  • Santa Stork 2018: 1517 children/828 adults = 2,345
  • Santa Stork 2017: 1040 children/438 adults = 1,478
  • Santa Stork 2016: 767 children/370 adults = 1,137
  • Santa Stork 2015: 487 children/295 adults = 782
  • Santa Stork 2014: 146 children/56 adults = 202

We expected that low income would be a primary reason for referral but also high were requests for children under protection plans (17%) and those affected by disability or ill health (14%) or domestic violence (13%).

Behind the statistics we always remember that there is a child. At Stripey Stork we fundamentally that every child deserves the same start in life and to be able to experience that Christmas magic.

We heard of a six-year-old boy telling his teacher that his family weren’t celebrating Christmas this year because ‘Mum says we can’t afford it’.

A referral partner collecting a last-minute request expressed her relief and said that until we had offered to help Mum’s plan was to wrap up a tub of Pringles for her children to open.

Heart-breaking stories, and whilst the Santa Stork campaign doesn’t solve big problems it does offer some relief and joy to those going through a difficult time.

“Many of our chronically ill children are spending long periods of time in hospital without visitors due to covid restrictions and to be able to do something normal like give a gift to their sibling and make a card in their bed will really go a long way to try and normalise things. “

Clinical Nurse Specialist, Paediatric Mental Health Liaison

“The thoughtfulness of providing everything families need to personalise the presents and make them not feel like a donation but a present from them to their children will make a huge difference.”

Family Support Worker, South West Surrey Refuge

“I support families who usually only have one parent, are on benefits, many are in the process of moving into emergency accommodation. Most of the families that I support need to use foodbanks, and we often source items from Stripey Stork for the children.

Having Santa Stork give these families such wonderful gifts is such a massive help to them, and this will mean that these children will not miss out at such an important time of year.

Thank you to all the team and all that you do! It is such hard work but touches so many hearts! Love makes the world go round!”

Housing Support Officer, Raven Housing Trust

Thank you’s

We always say that Santa Stork can only happen because the whole community comes together and that has never been truer than this year.  The size of the following list is indicative of how many people we must thank. We hope we’ve captured everyone, but if not then please let us know so we can add you to the list.

Two organisations which have been fundamental to the project’s success are:

  • Toy Barnhaus. We love supporting a local business and the team at Toy Barnhaus could not have been more helpful. A special thanks to Stephen for overseeing the ordering and delivery process, and for being so great to work with.
  • Reigate & Banstead Borough Council for finding the space to run the project from. It was good to be able to invite the Councillors and council team to the building so they could see for themselves how the space was being put to good use for the community.  32% of the requests were from within Borough, and gifts went to 1074 Borough families, so it is a partnership that has had a significant impact on the local community.

Dream Team

We really did have the Christmas ‘dream team’ in place and the challenges of COVID-19 illness and isolation only served to make they work more effectively. This amazing Santa Stork project team worked so hard to successfully deliver Christmas: Donna, Chris, Helen, Jo, Gill, Denise and Margarida.

And all our wonderful volunteer Elves including Ann T, Pat, Pauline, Jacqui, Kate H, Anna, Linda, Charlotte, Megan, Natalie, Susan, Sarah C, Sam, Kersten, Jess, Chloe, Caron, Ursula, Nigel and Wendy, Lindsey, Roz, Angie, Sarah D, Alison, Rowena, Sarah S, Emma, and Deb.

The team of Sleigh drivers who helped get presents out to our referral partners. A huge thanks to: Dave C, Dave G, Nigel, Ursula, Margarida, Denise, Ann T, Morrisons Solicitors, HPS Redhill, Osborne, Raven Housing and Celtic Contractors who all delivered gifts for us.

Donors and supporters

Corporate volunteering groups

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