WITH the help of her community, proud mum Ann Dobson is sending a little bit of festive cheer to her soldier son and the rest of our troops in Afghanistan.
When Ann, of Blyth in Northumberland, took to Facebook to ask for help putting together shoeboxes to send to her son Andrew Raisbeck’s regiment in Afghanistan this Christmas she was overwhelmed by the support she received from across the North East.
“Me and my husband Dennis are both overwhelmed with the generosity of people, especially people I do not even know. I was getting messages from friends of friends on Facebook saying they have boxes,” said 43-year-old Ann.
“We all been all over the region collecting boxes that are full of really good stuff that will hopefully, when the lads and lasses open them, bring some comfort and put a smile on their faces.
“We are trying to make them Christmassy with Christmas puddings and bits and pieces which are just home comforts,” she said.
This is the second time Ann has organised for shoeboxes to be sent to troops after sending more than 150 boxes during Andrew’s first tour with his regiment, 4 Royal Artillery, during the summer of 2010. This year she is giving the boxes a special festive twist and is hoping to double the number sent for the 23-year-old Lance Bombardier’s second tour.
Ann and Dennis, who have been married 20 years, have already sent 50 boxes, packaged another 40 boxes, and yesterday Ann picked up a further 40 shoeboxes put together by staff and pupils at Seaton Sluice First School in Northumberland.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone. I cannot thank people enough,” said Ann, who is currently receiving chemotherapy for lupus, a condition she has had since 1995.
Ann and Dennis have received help from companies across the region, as well as Blyth Town Council, Isabella Slimming World and Staff at Blackett Walker Independent Financial Advisers.
To make sure the shoeboxes do not block the soldiers’ postal system to Afghanistan, Ann has organised for 17 of Andrew’s comrades to receive the parcels and dish them out to others in the regiment.
“They are like Santa. Once the soldiers get them they dish them out and we put letters in the boxes explaining what we are doing,” said Ann.
“It could be another regiment who’s working with them so hopefully they are reaching outside Andrew’s regiment too.” She and Dennis also have to go through each box to make sure there are no items within that could cause problems, including aerosols, lighters and inappropriate magazines which Ann said could be offensive to the Afghan culture.
But Ann doesn’t want the boxes to stop at Christmas.
“I am determined the boxes will not stop at Christmas because the tour does not end until April for my son’s regiment,” she said.
“It is my way of coping through the tour, to feel useful and also as my health is not good it gives me something to focus on”
She added: “I could not do it without the help of everyone else. I am just wrapping and going to the post office. I think it proves Geordies and people from Northumberland are the best.”