A VITAL initiative in Clackmannanshire is preparing for another year of Christmas gift giving.

Love in a Box is in its seventh year of supporting the community, though there is expected to be a "greater need than ever" due to the impact of Covid-19 across the Wee County.

Last year, Love in a Box supported 488 children and young people in the area with Christmas gifts and are setting up for even more this year.

Margaret Douglas, a volunteer, said: "We think, due to the impact on families in the area, there is a greater need; however, we expect a reduction in the amount of physical donations because of the pandemic as people won't be going out to the shops as much.

"As much as we've got a drop-off area in the community, we are expecting a reduction so that's why we're doing the sponsored event.

"We're probably having to work harder this year just to try and get as much in as we can. We're sitting just now at around 300 names and we've just had health visitors get in touch with us – we've never, ever had referrals from them in the past – to say they've got quite a few vulnerable families they would like to pass onto us.

"Usually, it's just schools and social workers, but this year we expect there will be an increase so we're under pressure."

In anticipation of a drop in physical donations, the team are doing a sponsored event this month to raise money. They will be attempting to complete 700 miles via walking, swimming, running or cycling: 100 miles for every year Love in a Box has been running.

Physical gifts are still needed for children aged 0-16; however, gifts for parents and carers are also most welcome.

Suggested items include toiletries, make-up, pyjamas, arts and crafts, sweets, toys and games.

Gifts can be dropped off at the storage area at Unit 7, Dumyat Business Park, Bond Street, Tullibody, FK10 2PB, which has kindly been provided by Julie Hunter Jack of Hunter's Executive Coaches. Gifts will be taken until December 4 and volunteers are also happy to collect gifts and donations.

Margaret continued: "It's a time of the year where I think you feel pressure anyway as a parent trying to provide for your kids, so if we can just take the edge off that a wee bit...that's what we're trying to do."

Jennie Syme, vice chair of Alloa Community Council, added: "Love in a Box Clackmannanshire does an outstanding job of providing Christmas presents to children in Clackmannanshire who might not otherwise have anything to open on Christmas Day.

"It's great to see the whole community becoming involved in such a worthwhile cause.

"This year, due to Covid, there will be a greater need than ever and any donations go directly to local families.

"The volunteers do a marvellous job of organising, buying and distributing presents. They appreciate all the help and support from local businesses and residents to make a difference to a child's Christmas."

Victoria Struthers, owner of Victoria's Coffee Shop in Stirling, is also volunteering this year for the first time and reiterated how important this year will be.

She said: "[It's] really important, I think this year it's going to be needed more than ever. Every kid should get a nice gift at Christmas."

Everybody at Love in a Box would like to thank Alloa Round Table for their donation again this year and Iona McGregor, Alloa Tesco's community champion, for their contribution.

Visit www.paypal.com/pools/c/8tOEzYUILqto donate to the sponsored event, or contact loveinaboxclackmannanshire@yahoo.comfor information on donating gifts.