Chocolate Elf spreading Christmas cheer in Shepparton

By Liz Mellino

A group of thoughtful Samaritans, known as the Chocolate Elf, are spreading Christmas cheer to those in need this festive season.

Shepparton resident Paul Nicklin got the idea from some English friends who were donating Christmas advent calendars to children at their local hospital.

What started as a handful of advent calenders being delivered, quickly grew into 16000 deliveries in the past four years.

Seeing the success of the charity, Mr Nicklin thought he would bring the same joy to children in Shepparton and collecting advent calenders at the start last month.

‘‘Over the last three weeks we collected more than 160 advent calenders and we delivered 40 to the Goulburn Valley Health children’s ward and 120 to Berry Street last Friday,’’ he said.

‘‘We wanted to give them to kids that would be struggling this Christmas, we wanted to give them something to make their Christmas better.’’

Being the first year for the Chocolate Elf, Mr Nicklin said they were unsure how the community would respond.

He said the team was overwhelmed with the amount of donations they had received from people, with people from surrounding towns also wanting to make donations.

Following the success of the advent calender donation, the group is collecting chocolate and lolly stockings for underprivileged children, along with toiletries to give to the homeless.

‘‘We have been collecting toiletries and we are hoping to collect as much as we can to give to the Salvation Army or any other appropriate charities who can distribute the items to the homeless over Christmas,’’ Mr Nicklin said.

‘‘Homelessness is a big problem in Shepparton, we have one of the highest homeless rates in Victoria.’’

Mr Nicklin said collection boxes were at Cupcake Ali’s Kialla Lakes Cafe and Delightful Rainglow in Fryers St for people to donate any stockings or sanitary items.

‘‘The more people you talk to the more you realise the local people are really generous, I wanted to test the waters this year and it has gone a lot better than we initially thought,’’ he said.

‘‘We have received messages from strangers offering to collect items in neighbouring towns and deliver them to us, it has been amazing ... hopefully we can get bigger and better next year.’’

To find out more about the Chocolate Elf or to donate items, visit The Chocolate Elf — Shepparton Facebook page.