A GROUP of kind-hearted Ayrshire volunteers are preparing to set out on their rounds to deliver Christmas toys and boxes of festive essentials to families in need across South West Scotland.

The Night Before Christmas group plans to distribute more than 6,000 boxes across Ayrshire – and this year’s efforts have been supported by a grant of more than £9,000 from the National Lottery.

The Night Before Christmas group provides Christmas toys and boxes to families who need help from all across the Ayrshire and the South West of Scotland in Dumfries and Galloway.

This year they plan to distribute more than 6,000 boxes across Ayrshire and have been supported by over £9,000 from the National Lottery.

The campaign began seven years ago with a question on Christmas Eve from a curious Annbank girl who ask her mum if everyone was having an evening like theirs.

Her mum, Jodie John, explained that they didn’t, and along with her daughter Tygan, now 18, and her gran Isobel McFarlane, Jodie got to work to produce 90 random acts of kindness for families who were struggling the following Christmas.

Jodie explained the founding of the project to the Advertiser: “My daughter had asked me when she was 12 if every child got a Christmas Eve box just like her.

“And I said, not every child is as lucky, so she asked me if she could do a wee random act of kindness, just to make up some Christmas Eve bags.

“The first year we did it, we did about 90 that went out via the New Church in Prestwick.

“Then me and my mum took over, and we thought we would do more.

“From that one question, the Night before Christmas campaign was born.”

Throughout the year the group plans, raises funds and collects donations as it prepares for Christmas.

Jodie continues: “More people are needing help.

“There are a lot of working people who are finding it a struggle at Christmas time.

“It is done through a referral system, whether it is school, church or social worker.

“We cover all of Ayrshire and the South West of Scotland to Dumfries and Galloway.

“We are getting a lot of emergency referrals from social work and people with mental health issues because of the pandemic.

“It is affecting a lot of people who are struggling to ask for help.

“We hope we are an approachable lot. Nobody needs to know – we only get age and gender and some details about what they like, but it is discreet so we can signpost to other charities.”

The growth of the project has also led to the opening of the Baby To Teen charity shop in Ayr, dedicated to young people.

Jodie continued: “It was because a wee girl had asked to wear her best outfit, and her best outfit was her donated school uniform.

“We felt there was a need for a second hand party clothes so kids can join in, and parents can share in the pride of being able to go buy their own items for teens.

“It has only been open three weeks. It is heartbreaking the amount of kids who say ‘Santa brought me nothing’ – we try to cater to all their needs.”

The Night before Christmas project will be delivering and accepting new donations all the way up to Christmas Eve and are particularly in need of toiletries suitable for teenagers.

These can include make up sets or gift boxes for any gender.

To find out more information about the project, and where you can donate, visit facebook.com/thenightbefore christmasboxes.