MORE than 500 children will enjoy a 'proper Christmas' this year, thanks to the generosity of local people.

Toys, games, cuddly animals, make-up, crafts and more will wing their way to homes across Pembrokeshire next week, thanks to the Pembrokeshire Action To Combat Hardship (PATCH)Toy Appeal.

The charity, which opened in Milford Haven nine years ago, operates a food bank service throughout the year.

But in December it takes on a very special role - ensuring families who might otherwise not be able to afford them have a sack full of presents to open on Christmas morning.

Over the last month, businesses, organisations, church groups and individuals have donated thousands of presents for children of all ages.

Among Father Christmas' helpers this year was Alison Phillips, who spent the day sorting gifts into age-appropriate bundles with colleagues from the Department of Work and Pensions.

Despite working closely with PATCH throughout the year, this was Alison's first time helping with the toy appeal.

"What it's made me realise is just how incredibly generous people are," said Alison.

"Anyone would be happy to receive these presents at Christmas.

"For most children, it's not about the value of the gifts, it's the sense on occasion and the magic of having something to open.

"It would be lovely to be a fly on the wall on Christmas morning, to watch them being opened."

She added: "It's really important that parents who receive these gifts are also given wrapping paper and tape, so they can join in with the process too.

"That for me is how it should be, it includes the whole family."

Praising the toy appeal, which is now in its eighth year, Alison added: "It's an opportunity for families who have less to have a little bit more.

"It's a really great thing, and all the volunteers are feeling very childlike having done this, it's been lovely."

Added PATCH co-ordinator Tracy Olin: "Last year we had 600 referrals, and are nearing that figure again this year.

"That means around 200 families will enjoy a proper Christmas thanks to the appeal.

"Thanks to Tordy and all the volunteers who have stepped up again to help; FRAME, who will once again be delivering the bundles next week; and the kind people of Pembrokeshire - we could not do this without you."