THE Wharfedale Refugee Response group, led by Sarah O’Mahoney, didn’t think they could possibly top the response they had to the Reverse Advent Calendar appeal last year when 250 boxes of food were packed by members of the local community and donated for refugees and asylum seekers in Leeds. They were wrong.

A staggering 450 boxes just kept arriving at the reception point, Burley-in-Wharfedale Methodist Church, throughout the day on Thursday, January 4, brought in by groups and individuals, old and young alike, from Burley, Ilkley, Otley, Guiseley, Bingley and even further afield.

The challenge had been to put an item of food into a box each day during Advent, and many families embraced this idea as trying to encourage in children the idea of giving as well as receiving at Christmas.

However, the whole community gradually became involved, and the boxes had to spread out of the Welcome Area and into the body of the church itself. As an added bonus, £160 was raised for the charity Refugee Support by the sale of coffee and cakes which enabled those bringing boxes to stay and have a chat if they wished.

On Friday morning, January 5, the huge task began of transporting the boxes, via 16 cars and four vans, to the five organisations providing refugee/asylum seeker aid. Although originally the Red Cross in Bradford was to take the donations, there were just too many boxes for them to store, so they were shared out between the Red Cross in Bradford and Leeds, St Vincent’s in Bradford, BIOSAN (Bradford Immigration & Asylum Support & Advice Network) and Refugee Action in Bradford.

Sarah O’Mahoney, on behalf of Wharfedale Refugee Response, thanked all those who had donated boxes of food, and also all those who had been involved in the collecting in and then distributing the boxes around Bradford and Leeds. Sarah herself did a magnificent job in co-ordinating the operation - no mean feat – and she says “Same time next year?!”

Anyone interested in the work of Wharfedale Refugee Response can contact Sarah via email: