Residents hoping to spread festive joy this winter have insisted “Christmas is not cancelled”, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Operation Santa 2020 aims to give every child in Bedwas, Trethomas, Machen, Graig y Rhacca and Waterloo a Christmas ‘goody bag’.
The group will be holding raffles to raise money to buy the gifts – which they say could cost around £3,000.
The initative, which was started by Bedwas residents Tracey Foster, 44, and Michelle Bridges, 43, will see Father Christmas pay a socially-distanced visit to the area with his sleigh in December, with volunteers delivering the gifts.
Tracey, who has three young grandchildren, said: “We want to give as many children a goody bag as possible.
“I put up a post on Facebook and Michelle had the idea for the sleigh. The response we’ve had has been overwhelming.”
Less than a week after Tracey shared the idea, more than 100 people had offered support and the group had grown in size to eight volunteers.
A number of businesses, organisations and residents also came forward with money and donations for raffle prizes – including meals, afternoon teas and even a stay at a holiday home in Bulgaria, among others.
The idea has since been adopted in other communities across Caerphilly County Borough, including the Aber Valley and New Tredegar.
Mother-of-three Michelle said: “This year there’s no grottos, no lights switch-on – nothing. This is something for the children.
“We don’t want to write Christmas off – it’s not cancelled here.”
Tracey and Michelle wanted to spread some Christmas cheer after what has been “a hard year”, particularly in Bedwas – which was hit by Storm Dennis flooding in February.
Jonny Harris, owner of the Fisherman’s Rest, is supporting the intiative and urged other businesses to do the same. He said: “It’s tough at the moment with furlough coming to an end and the threat of unemployment. It’s important that children can receive gifts.”
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Cllr Chris Morgan, chair of Bedwas, Trethomas and Machen Community Council, said: “As chair, I’ve got a fund to give donations and I’m happy to be able to give £100 to get them going and bring joy in what’s been a horrible year.”
Michelle contacted Gwent Police to make them aware of their plans – and was delighted when they offered to support the idea.
Inspector Gavin Clifton of Gwent Police said: “As an officer working in the area, but also as someone who grew up in the community, I’m excited by this opportunity and looking forward to playing a part in it.
“I know it has been a tough year for our communities, so anything we can do to bring a bit of cheer to people will be greatly welcome.”
To see which items volunteers are looking to collect, visit obv.sr/opsamz
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