THOUSANDS of children in Romania will be able to unwrap a present on Christmas Day thanks to the generosity of the public in the Scarborough area.

This year’s Operation Christmas Child charity appeal came to a close on Monday when a lorry packed with 5,560 shoeboxes, packed full of gifts, headed off to the eastern European country to be distributed to needy children.

A team of 60 volunteers from across the Yorkshire coast have processed the shoeboxes at a warehouse hub on Sandside since early November.

The shoeboxes are filled with cuddly toys, sweets, games, pens, pencils, paper plus essential toiletries like soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and items of warm clothing such as woolly hats and scarves which have been donated by individuals, schools, churches, pubs and village groups in Scarborough, Whitby, Filey, Bridlington, Driffield, Malton and other areas of Ryedale.

Operation Christmas Child Scarborough area coordinator Graham Hobson said he was ‘elated’ by the final total.

Volunteers from Operation Christmas Child and the Rainbow Centre loaded the lorry ready for driver Marius Ecsedi, 51, from Deva in Transylvania, to begin the four-day, 1600 miles journey to distribution points in the Wrancea county of Romania.

Marius said, "It’s extraordinary, just wonderful that so many children in my country will receive a shoebox. I have no words to express our thanks."

At the start of the appeal we thought if we got 5,000 shoeboxes this year we would have been happy, but we’re absolutely over the moon to get as many as we have. When I told my grandson the boxes were going to Romania he was delighted, as he said the children in that country are some of the most underprivileged in Europe.

In a way I’m sad our appeal has come to an end this year but I’m very happy with the way it has gone and in particular the way we have been able to engage with the public who have come into our processing centre. We thank everyone for their support. Next year we plan to build further and reach out to even more children.

Graham Hobson, Operation Christmas Child Scarborough area coordinator

The boxes will be handed out to children in hospitals, orphanages, schools and other centres by a network of local churches.

Operation Christmas Child is operated by international humanitarian aid organisation Samaritan’s Purse.

In 2016, nearly 900,000 shoeboxes were sent from the UK to children around the world.

Pictured above: Scarborough area organiser Graham Hobson and volunteers with driver Marius Ecsedi