A COUPLE from Grove are running their 14th annual Christmas shoebox collection for Eastern Europe.

John and Margaret Willemsen, both 74, have been helping to get aid to the poverty-stricken region since the fall of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s.

This year they are asking people in Wantage and Grove to fill shoeboxes with basic goods such as toothpaste, soap, shampoo and gifts for each family member.

The gifts are delivered to the poorest families in Albania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine and Romania.

Many in the region live on one meal a day and toiletries are an unaffordable luxury, especially in the winter when fuel for cooking and warmth is essential for survival in temperatures down to -25C.

Mr Willemsen, father-of-four and grandfather-of-10, said although the economic climate had improved in the past 25 years, many families were still in need.

He said: “We would be delighted to receive anything people can donate.”

Shoebox leaflets containing a list of all the recommended items are available from Mr and Mrs Willemsen on 01235 798875.

Leaflets are also available from the Cornerstone Coffee Shop, Savile Way, Grove, where shoeboxes can be dropped off.

Completed shoeboxes should be handed in by Wednesday, October 29, at the latest.

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