The Church's Annual Toy Service
Needy children in the Watford area will wake up on Christmas morning to find that Father Christmas called after all this year, thanks to the continuing generosity of the members Stanborough Park Church who have maintained a tradition of donating toys every Christmas for more than half a century. View more photos in the Toy Service gallery.
The Annual Toy Service, which was held this year at the church on 16th December, was begun in the early 1960's by the late Alf Kelly who was awarded the M.B.E. for his services to the people of Watford. Big-hearted Alf became concerned about the number of children who were going without toys at Christmas as their parents were unable to afford them. Having heard of a scheme operated at the Ealing church he appealed to his fellow church-members for help and the Annual Toy Service was established, a tradition maintained by his daughter, Pat Walton, after his death. For his efforts Alf was dubbed 'Watford's Father Christmas' by the local paper.
This year's event was attended as usual by Baroness Thornhill for the last time as the elected Mayor of Watford, who reminded her audience that for her the Christmas season always began with attending this service. She then went on to update them on the number of families in Watford who will be spending Christmas in temporary accommodation, thankfully fewer than last year, mainly as a result of eviction following non-payment of rent to private landlords. For these people the toys will be a God-send.
Surveying the hundreds of new toys spread across the front of the church Pat thanked the members for their generosity and the church's youth who packed gifts for teenagers. She added that there were also 'pampering packages' for the mothers of the children who will received the toys. In the congregation she said were social workers waiting to take the toys off to their clients as were representatives of the Watford and Three Rivers Refugee Council and local Children's Centres.
Guest speaker for the occasion was Pastor Wayne Erasmus who delivered a timely Christmas message in the form of an unusual perspective on the nativity story - as seen by the shepherds - which surely touched the hearts of all who heard it.
Following the service and the traditional photo of the children of the church with the Mayor, the display was quickly dismantled by the attending social workers and charity representatives who were delighted with the variety and quality of toys on offer for their clients. The remaining toys would be bundled up and distributed to other needy causes before Christmas. View more photos in the Toy Service gallery
Summing up the occasion organiser Pat Walton insisted that the toys would go to good homes, adding, "It was a real pleasure to see the extraordinary flood of toys for children of all ages. Toys were everywhere, some were already on the platform, some were carried onto it by the young children of the church. The toys came from church members and the surrounding community, some were specially prepared by the Youth group for teenagers. I do feel that there were more toys than usual.
It was also heart-warmingly special to see the suitable gifts for their overstretched mothers.
"It was a pleasure to have Dorothy Thornhill receive the gifts on behalf of the children and mothers. Many of the women's bags and teenage boxes went to the Watford and Three Rivers Refugee Association." Many toys were also collected from the church by a succession of clients on Monday morning.