A DODWORTH shop owner has helped bring her community together to make sure that no child goes without a Christmas present this year.

Natalie Parkes, co-owner of HE Payne and Son, first came up with the idea for a toy bank in October after helping her community throughout the first lockdown period.

She spearheaded the ‘Dodworth Help a Neighbour’ scheme and, along with a team of volunteers, helped deliver more than 400 food parcels and prescriptions to people who were self-isolating or vulnerable across the village.

After the scheme came to a close during the summer, Natalie turned her attention to the children of Dodworth who may not receive a present this Christmas.
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“Our village showed it looks after its own during the first lockdown,” said Natalie, 31. “I wanted to take that community spirit further and ask for help to make sure the children of Dodworth had something to open on Christmas Day.

“Christmas can be hard for families, but I think there will be more families struggling this year and I wanted to help give presents to those who need it.

“I didn’t want children to wake up on Christmas morning with nothing to open, it just broke my heart to think of.”

Natalie created a toy bank and helped create more than 500 presents, which she and volunteers spent hours wrapping.

“We have seen an amazing response,” she added. “It’s great to see Dodworth band together and to help make children happy in the area.

“Dodworth has really pulled together this year and I want to thank anyone that has donated a present. Now there will be something under the tree for everyone who needs it.”

Natalie reached out to Dodworth councillor, Peter Fielding, for help distributing the presents to those in need and presents have so far been distributed to local schools and charities as well as individual families.

Some of the donations will be delivered to Horizon Community College who send hampers to a women’s refuge each year at Christmas.

Lucy Kenyon, events manager at the school, said: “We collect hampers each year for the women’s refuge but this year it will be great to send some presents for the children there.

“It’s amazing how many presents have been donated by the people of Dodworth and I am happy that we get to send some to people who don’t have a lot.”

Coun Fielding, who helped co-ordinate the delivery of the gifts, said: “It’s amazing how many presents have been donated.

“They were all stored in the Dodworth WMC and you could barely get in the room because of them.

“Natalie and her volunteers have worked tirelessly collecting and wrapping the presents and it’s really down to them that the children of Dodworth will have a merry Christmas.”