Volunteers in Spixworth help prepare thousands of shoe boxes for children in Serbia

Kind-hearted volunteers in Spixworth have been working hard to put a smile on children's faces this Christmas.

More than 20 people are sorting and packing shoe boxes filled with hats, gloves, toys and sweets before sending them to Novi Sad in Serbia.

Before the boxes can be sent to the children, they have to be checked to remove prohibited items such as war toys, medicines, books and liquids. Last year more than 13,500 shoe boxes were sent to children in Europe from Norfolk.

The team have been working for two weeks and have packed and checked more than 5,000 boxes.

Volunteer Dave Minurn, 69, a retired salesman from Spixworth said: 'We would like to smash last year's record. There are some doubts in our minds but we are keeping positive.'

The charity responsible for the scheme, Samaritan's Purse, recommends sending gifts including notebooks, pens, soft toys, toy cars and hygiene items including soap, flannels and toothbrushes.

Some schools have been donating their time to visit the depot and help pack the boxes.

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Barbara Muntendam, 64, who lives in Taverham said: 'I have been doing this for four years. It is a good feeling, I wish we could see the children.

'On the first Monday when we started there was five of us volunteering and on the Tuesday there was 21. We are all down here doing our bit. We start at 10am and work until about 3pm because it is so cold. Most people are here five days a week.

'This year the boxes are bigger and filled better. We have had less this year I think it is because some schools are doing other projects and some have stopped doing it all together.'

Shirley Barber, who helps to organise the shoe box appeal in Norfolk said: 'This is my 15th year doing this and we look after all the NR postcodes.'

Mrs Barber, who lives in Aylsham added: 'My husband, John, who died two years ago was a great help every year. I will be 75 next week and I usually spend my birthday packing shoe boxes.'

For more details see www.samaritans-purse.org.uk

Are you volunteering over the Christmas period? Contact Lucy Wright on 01603 772495 or email lucy.wright@archant.co.uk