GAZETTE Newspapers launched an appeal with international charity Samaritan's Purse to help provide more than one million of the world's poorest children with a Christmas present this year.

Since 1990, Operation Christmas Child has delivered shoeboxes containing small gifts to more than 23 million children in Eastern Europe, including 1.3 million last year alone.

Any school, church, company or individual can start their own collection of gift boxes and Gazette Newspapers editor Mark Jones has encouraged readers to give generously.

Packing and wrapping the boxes is easy and will make a huge difference to underprivileged children.

The boxes, which need to be the size of an average shoebox, should be covered in Christmas paper, with the lid wrapped separately.

The box should be filled with new or nearly-new individual presents including any of the following: A cuddly toy A toothbrush, toothpaste, a bar of soap Notepad, colouring book, picture books (without words) A set of crayons, felt pens and pencils A hat, cap, gloves, scarf A small ball or tennis ball A puzzle, such as a small jigsaw A greetings card or a photo of yourself Some sweets that are within their sell-by date For boys - a small toy car, truck or passenger plane or similar For girls - jewellery, such as clip-on earrings, make-up or hair accessories.

War-related presents, such as toy guns or soldiers, as well as sharp, fragile or religious items, should not be included.

All gifts need to be unwrapped and the lid of the box should be secured with an elastic band so it can be checked by customs.

All boxes need to be accompanied by a £2 cheque, made payable to Samaritan's Purse, to cover the cost of distribution. Cheques can be made to any amount to cover a group of boxes.

The boxes also need a sticker attached to indicate whether the gifts are suitable for a girl or boy and their age group. These stickers, along with a payment envelope for the cheques, can be found within a leaflet produced by Samaritan's Purse.

Leaflets will soon be available from the Gazette Newspapers offices in Church Street in the town centre or Pelton Road, Basingstoke, between normal office hours, Monday to Friday. Samaritan's Purse will pick up collections of 50 boxes or more at designated drop-off points, including the Gazette offices, between November 5 and 20,

A full list of these drop-off points will be made available on October 1, and can be viewed on the website.

For more information, contact the helpline on 0870 011 2002 or log on to