First Essex delivers Christmas gifts to vulnerable children in Southend

Colleagues from bus operator First Essex, have donated over 200 gifts to Southend Council’s annual Christmas toy drive.

The toys, games and books, donated by First Essex employees at the Chelmsford depot, were delivered to Southend by First’s very own Santa and his team of elves in a classic 1960 Routemaster bus.

Southend’s Toy Drive, now in its tenth year, is an annual project that gifts Christmas presents to vulnerable children, with the gifts being distributed to local children’s centres, food banks, refuges and children’s parties set up by local charities.

First Essex operates over 250 buses across the county, and employs over 1,000 people, including bus drivers, engineers and support staff.

Sacha Norris, Staff & Performance Manager at First Essex’s Chelmsford Depot and one of the toy drive organisers, said: “This is the fifth year that we have gathered gifts for Southend’s toy drive, and I’m absolutely over the moon with the number gifts donated by our people in Chelmsford this year.

“Christmas can be a really challenging time for families who are struggling financially and we really wanted to do something to help make sure that these children have the best Christmas possible.”

The Worshipful the Mayor, Cllr Stephen Habermel, said: “A huge thank you to everyone at First Essex for their efforts in gathering these toys. The toy drive is an amazing example of how, when our community pulls together, we can really achieve something incredible. Every child deserves to get a new toy at Christmas - such a simple aim - yet the hard work and commitment that goes into making this happen is eye-opening.

“From the kind individuals who donate a gift, to the local businesses who contribute, to the council staff in the benefits team for organising and those who give up their lunch breaks to wrap gifts, it really is a team effort.

“And this year it is more important than ever, with the cost-of-living crisis, we cannot forget that there are many children in Southend who are facing a bleak Christmas indeed without support from the Toy Drive.”

For more information on Southend’s toy drive visit