An OSWESTRY accountant is urging other businesses to join them to ditch ‘Secret Santa’ this year and instead buy gifts for children living in refuges over the festive period.

Rob Ellis, the managing partner of Welch and Ellis, an accountants and tax specialist based in Willow Street, is encouraging other business owners and members of the public to join him in supporting charity KidsOut’s ‘Giving Tree’ Christmas initiative.

Rob, who lives in Llanfechain, Powys, with his wife Jo and three-year-old son Samuel, said: “Christmas is an exciting time for children, but it can be difficult for those escaping domestic violence. While kids all over the country receive dozens of gifts during the holiday season, children living in refuge may not even expect one.”

Having already left their home, toys and all that is familiar, KidsOut believes these children deserve more. Through their Giving Tree initiative they aim to distribute a toy to every child living in a Women’s Aid refuge during the festive period throughout the UK.

Businesses, schools and organisations can take part by turning their Christmas tree into a special KidsOut ‘Giving Tree’. In the lead up to Christmas, decorative tags with a child’s name*, age and suggested gift are placed on the tree, with participants being invited to take a tag and buy the present for £5-£10 and drop it back into the office unwrapped.

Welch and Ellis will then arrange to get the gifts to the nearest depot, which is in Birmingham, for the deadline of 14 December and KidsOut will collect the gifts to distribute to children in local refuges.

Now in its fifth year nationally, the Giving Tree initiative has grown tremendously from 63 companies taking part in 2014, to 371 companies in 2017. The aim is for as many as possible to take part this year so every child in refuge receives a present over the festive period.

Welch and Ellis will have a Christmas tree in their office with red and gold tags from the charity which people can take.  The red tags have details of a specific gift for the person to buy whereas the gold ones allow people who don’t have the time or desire to go shopping for a gift personally to make a monetary donation so the charity can buy it on their behalf.

With the support of the local business community, Welch and Ellis are determined to try and provide at least 100 gifts for the scheme.

Rob explained: “Years ago I worked at firms where the annual Secret Santa was greeted with equal excitement and dread. While the idea of a gift for a colleague is a nice one, the reality is most people end up with something they don’t want or need, which will instantly be discarded.

“As a follically challenged man, I inevitably seem to get bought a hairbrush or comb and while I enjoy a good joke, it seems like a terrible waste of money. So when I mentioned to Jo we were thinking about doing Secret Santa this year – she suggested we do ‘Giving Tree’ instead and buy a present for a child who is in need of some festive cheer.”

Anyone interested in taking a tag, but who cannot get into the office to do so in person is asked to email Welch and Ellis office manager Sarah Edwards on . The firm is also keen to hear from local businesses who might be able to help with getting the gifts to Birmingham.

Pictured: Rob Ellis. (Courtesy of Jolly Good Communications)