Since 1997, Rotary Clubs in Britain and Ireland have been collecting shoeboxes full of gifts. Currently, some 60,000 boxes each year are being sent to countries including Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Belarus, Albania, Moldova, Poland, and Croatia. Boxes are packed with basic items and toys for the children.
Started in 1994 in District 1280 (north and west of Manchester plus the Isle of Mann), the initial project gathered items for the people of Iasi, Romania, and also included a Kindergarten.
Initially intended for Christmas, this is now an all year round project with deliveries made wherever and whenever there is a need.
Rotary, Inner Wheel, Rotaract, Rotaserve and Interact Clubs purchase the special boxes from the Rotary Trustees (a small group of Rotarians who administer the scheme). The boxes are sent 'flat packed' to the Club. It is then up to the club as to where to send the boxes for filling. Often local schools, children's uniformed organizations, church groups, elderly peoples homes, friends, relatives, etc., are the ones who enthusiastically fill the boxes.
The person filling the box tapes a £1 coin to the top of the box. This is then retrieved by the local Club who, by this means, hopefully balance their books. The initial money retained by the Trustees is used mainly for transport costs to Eastern & Central Europe and for manufacturing the boxes.
The filled boxes are then returned to the central warehouse and for subsequent delivery to Eastern Europe. Once delivered, distribution is overseen by Rotary Clubs and other groups to ensure that gifts go to those most in need.