Central Co-op collects toys for annual Christmas appeal

Thousands of toys were donated this year, with the society’s collection lorry calling in at nine stops to pick them up

Central Society’s annual Christmas toy collection hit the road again this year, with the lorry taking in nine stops and a collection bin in every store.

Starting at the retail society’s store in Northfield, Birmingham, the lorry, expertly driven and manoeuvred by Lol, took in a stop at Ibstock, Leicestershire, where colleagues had dressed up as fairies, elves, dragons and a tiger. Film and TV actor Stephen Graham was there to hand over a substantial donation of quality toys which will bring delight to some youngsters this Christmas.

Lichfield was the next stop, followed by Oakham, Dodworth, Ripley, Eccleshall, Orton in Peterborough and finally Reepham in Norfolk.

At Dodworth the lorry stood rocking in the car park while Storm Debi raged, blowing around toys and mince pies alike – but this didn’t stop the locals from being incredibly generous with toy donations.

All toys are required to be brand new, unwrapped and must not be items relating to war.

This year was slightly different because at every stop there was at least one Central director on board taking charge of the proceedings. Also present were one or more member and community council members and some funeral colleagues.

President Elaine Dean and vice-president Richard Bickle took their turns to collect the wonderful toys donated.

Chief commercial officer Andy Peake drew the short straw at Dodworth in the storm, but society secretary Andy Seddon was present at Eccleshall and there were visits from executives and operations managers at most stops and assistance from store colleagues.

Many thousands of toys have been donated – it was quite humbling as Lol was crating them up as fast as people were handing them in. The lorry, which has a kitchenette on board, can only visit stores with a large car park because of its size but our colleagues at the distribution centre will be sorting out the toys and dividing them among various charities across our trading area for children who might otherwise have little or nothing on Christmas Day.