WHEN Wharfedale Refugee Response launched its Reverse Advent Calendar Appeal at the beginning of December, they had no idea the response would be so overwhelming.

The idea was for people to take a box and put an item of non-perishable food into it each of the 24 days of Advent, then on January 3 bring their boxes to the collection point at Burley-in-Wharfedale Methodist Church, ready to be taken to PAFRAS on January 4. PAFRAS stands for Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers, based in Leeds, and is a centre which provides hot meals and other resources for those in need, as well as distributing food parcels.

The Methodist Church was inundated with boxes throughout the day and evening of January 3, receiving boxes of all shapes and sizes but all absolutely full of tins of vegetables and fruit, large packs of rice and pasta, cakes, biscuits, sweets, tea, coffee, long-life milk, in fact every type of food which would be of benefit to families and individuals struggling to survive and make ends meet. Some of the boxes were so heavy they took two people to lift them and it seemed many people had donated more than one item per day.

Over 250 boxes eventually arrived, and the organising team were concerned that they would have enough drivers and transport to take the food to PAFRAS on Wednesday morning, but they needn’t have worried. Around 19 drivers, some with estate cars and small vans, together with other volunteers had the Fellowship Area of the church cleared within almost half an hour, and whisked away to the charity’s storage area, where again all the boxes had to be lifted and stacked. The PAFRAS staff were amazed and delighted by the amount of food which is now supplementing their stocks, enabling them to help even more people.

The Wharfedale Refugee Response team has expressed their utmost gratitude to everyone in the village and beyond who donated boxes of food and to those who came along to help during the two days of collecting in and delivering the food to Leeds. People from all over Burley and beyond became involved, from Ilkley, Otley, Menston, Addingham, even Bingley and Baildon. The local schools and nurseries had also publicised and collected in boxes too.

A spokesperson for Wharfedale Refugee Response said: “We live in an area of outstanding kindness and compassion.”