57th Annual Toy Service Held at Stanborough Park Church
11th January 2019
Mention the number 57 and most would probably reply 'Heinz'. However, for Stanborough Park church it signifies the number of annual Christmas Toy Services that have been held at the church since their inauguration by the late Alf Kelly, MBE ‒ the latest one being held on Sabbath 8 December. Neither he nor his daughter who now organises the annual event would have envisaged it still running after all these years.
Alf was well-known for his work for the disadvantaged of Watford and knowing some of the hardship cases, he was determined to make sure that these children didn't go without toys at Christmas like other children. He asked his fellow church members to donate toys which he distributed personally.
The service is usually attended by the elected mayor of Watford or the chairman of Watford Borough Council. Sometimes both. This time there was a new face on the platform with Mayor Peter Taylor replacing the familiar face of Baroness Dorothy Thornhill. In his speech accepting the toys on behalf of the local needy families he commented that he, like his predecessor was a Christian and was aware of the work that the church was doing in the community and had already attended meetings at the church for the newly-established 'One Vision' project linking local charitable groups small and large.
Safeguarding issues mean that the church is no longer able to distribute the toys, a task left to local social workers, children's centre managers and charitable groups and organisations. Some of them had representatives attending the service who selected toys from those on display immediately after the service. The rest were bagged up and delivered to the remaining charities and organisations over the following days.
A more recently-established annual Christmas event was held at the church on the following Thursday. The Watford Inter-Schools Christmas Art Competition was established in 2013 and is jointly sponsored by the Community Chaplaincy Service at Stanborough Park church and the Co-op, a company which likes to be involved in community projects.
Each year children from local schools submit Christmas-themed pictures in any medium of their choice ‒ collage, paint, felt-tips, pencil etc. to the competition with the aim of winning a prize. This year children, aged 5-11 years from seven schools in Watford and neighbouring Hemel Hempstead submitted their pictures. A large number of these children from all ethnic backgrounds and their parents turned up to support the competition's Award Ceremony on 13 December. The walls of the hall were decorated for the occasion with more than 100 pictures which were submitted. Prizes were presented by the Chair of Watford Borough Council, Cllr Rabi Martins.
The leader of the church's Community Chaplaincy Group is a Co-op employee and was able to obtain the organisation's sponsorship for the event. Senior members of the Co-op staff attended and spoke to the audience about its aims and its involvement in local communities. Stanborough Park church was also represented by Pastor Geert Tapp who presented a prize from the church to the winning school.