Oakwood Homes staff use Secret Santa to buy gifts for children in need

Elaine McCarthy from Cliftonville Community Centre with the Oakwood Homes gifts

Staff at Thanet’s Oakwood Homes sales and letting business undertook a different kind of Secret Santa this year.

Usually Oakwood staff buy a colleague a Secret Santa but this year they decided to ditch the candles, chocolates, and coffee mugs and put that money to a good cause by buying Christmas presents for children who may not be as fortunate.

Natalie Wyborn, from Oakwood Homes, said: “We spoke to our local food bank and they put us in contact with Elaine McCarthy, the manager of Cliftonville Community Centre, who loved our idea.

“She immediately started listing some children that would love to receive a present from us. So, we worked together to compile a list of all the children and their ages and any special requirements, so no child was left without a gift.

Teresa Dickinson and Natalie Wyborn from Oakwood Homes

“This was such a humbling conversation and immediately felt so special that we would be able to buy a present for a specific child and be able to choose the perfect present just for them.

“Every team member of Oakwood Homes picked a child from the compiled list, mostly that resonated with a son or daughter or child they knew of similar age and the shopping began.

“All our team members came armed with gifts wrapped and ready for delivery, along with some clothes and toys that their own children wanted to pass on.

“Everyone loved taking part and all commented this was the best Secret Santa ever.”

This week the team delivered the gifts to Cliftonville Community Centre in time for them to be distributed to the parents and children for Christmas.

Natalie said: “It was wonderful to meet Elaine in person, instantly feeling the passion and determination she has. We loved hearing all the steps her and her team are taking to support the local community. She asked for our thanks to be passed onto our team.”

The Oakwood staff were sent photos of some of the parents and children receiving their gifts and say it will now be a new tradition.

Natalie added: “We are already looking forward to working with Elaine and the team at Cliftonville Community Centre to support them in 2024 and have planned to deliver some food and supplies in January.”