As December 2021 approached, the Relief Society Presidency in Peckham Ward, Wandsworth Stake, began to think about the kind of service they could give to their community. It was decided to prepare shoe boxes containing Christmas gifts.
One of the sisters, whose daughter attends a local primary school, spoke with the Parent Liaison Officer to ascertain whether any children there could be supported in this way. It was agreed that the shoe boxes would be given to children who were from less well-off homes, as well as additional shoe boxes that would be given to siblings, even if they did not attend the school.
Within a few weeks, approximately 50 shoe boxes were beautifully wrapped and filled with gifts, including toys, hygiene items, school materials, hats, and gloves.
The Stake Primary Christmas Nativity activity included an aspect of service. Sister Leni Hester, Stake Primary Music Leader, described the event below and entitled her remarks “A night in Bethlehem”.
“In a world of Santa Claus, reindeer, and elves, what better way to draw primary children’s attention back to the Saviour than to transport them to Bethlehem to experience the days before the Saviour’s birth.
“Metres of muslin cloth and a few trees transformed our cultural hall into the streets of Bethlehem.
“As the children entered ‘the city’, a tax collector explained about city taxes and gave them a bag of cardboard coins to spend at various stalls. A carpenter taught them the basics of carving (using bars of soap).
“Next to the carpenter, a weaver taught the children about wool and knitting, while another vendor shared the delights of local fare … and the children could make ‘pottery’ out of salt dough. A manger scene reminded us of the Saviour’s birth. The programme ended with the children singing some specially prepared musical numbers.
“The children embraced the beautiful importance to us of the Saviour’s birth and enjoyed the opportunity to get a glimpse into what life in Bethlehem was like all those years ago.”
The element of service involved children painting small wooden-peg dolls, which were included in the shoe boxes.
There was great excitement as the children joyfully received their beautifully wrapped shoe boxes. A note from Beverley Ferguson, the school’s Welfare Officer, read:
“Thank you so much for the Christian charity gifts during Christmas time. The children and parents of Brunswick Park Primary School who received a gift were very grateful. ... When I asked what they thought of their presents, they said they found them very useful and helpful. Some of the children have been wearing the hats and gloves to school during the cold weather. Once again, I would like to thank you for all your help and the time that you have taken to do this for the children of the school.”