After bringing a smile to the face of more than a million disadvantaged children, Wiltshire’s Operation Christmas Child coordinator Hilary McFall has now packed her last shoebox.

Mrs McFall has coordinated the annual appeal for the Samaritan’s Purse charity from its Melksham depot for 21 years, and announced this week she would be stepping down.

She said: “It’s been a real privilege to help for so many years.

“I first got involved after I watched a video of children in a Romanian orphanage, and they didn’t have anything to play with.

“I took it on and thought I would do it this year maybe next year, and 21 years later we are still doing it. We must have sent well over a million boxes from Wiltshire now.”

As area coordinator she has arranged the collection and distribution of thousands of gift boxes each year, which are shipped to children in eastern Europe and Africa.

She said: “About five years in I went out and visited some children in Ukraine, and I was so taken with the poverty it made me more determined to help. Whether you have been a supporter for 21 years or just recently, packed a box, helped load the cartons, knitted hats, mittens, puppets or anything else, can I just say thank you for your contribution to bringing a smile to children who otherwise would have nothing.”

Samaritan’s Purse regional manager Roger Fenton said: “Hilary’s effort is absolutely fantastic, what she has achieved with the team in Melksham and across Wiltshire is beyond measure.

“She is a very, very special person and she will be missed, but whether based in Melksham or elsewhere the appeal will carry on, and we are looking at a number of options at the moment.”

Anyone interested in helping with the appeal in the future can contact Mr Fenton on 07900 270159. A coffee morning to mark Mrs McFall’s retirement will take place at Melksham Baptist Church on February 1, at 10am.