A BIG-HEARTED woman is aiming to brighten Christmas for East Lancashire’s most vulnerable people.

Erika Anderton, 43, from Oswaldtwistle, is aiming to deliver more than 1,000 shoeboxes as part of her Christmas Shoe Box buddy for the homeless initiative.

She had already collected 700 boxes filled with toiletries, items of clothing and treats, and is aiming for more of the same this weekend to be distributed across East Lancashire.

But the success of the project has come as a total shock to Erika, who took inspiration from a similar project in Manchester.

She said: “I saw a girl on Facebook who did something similar and she collected about 100 boxes.

“So I decided I’d do something over here and I expected to get a similar amount of boxes.

“So I created a Facebook group and then started talking to people. But when we did the first collection, I was totally shocked by people’s generosity.

“It was clear that I wasn’t able to carry it off on my own but I’ve had help from some fantastic people and some fantastic businesses who are making it possible.”

Erika’s employers, Whalley Catering Equipment, have helped with transport and storage, as have Winfields Outdoors in Haslingden.

She said: “People have been so generous, it’s been a bit overwhelming. I’ve got to say a big thank you to Tonia Taylor and Hayley Wilson for helping out at the collections, and Whalley Catering Equipment for use of vans and the time to bring it all together.

“Also Jan Winnie at Winfields who has been really supportive with transport and vans and also with drop-offs.

“The gifts will make a real difference to the people who receive them right across East Lancashire.

“The children who have come along to donate have also learned something as there are people who are in real need out there at a time of year which can be very stressful.

“I’ve been able to tie into so many great charities who do so much great work.

“We’re delivering boxes now and we’ll be continuing that over the coming weeks.

“Any leftover we can deliver into Manchester so they will all be used and very well received.”

For more information on how to get involved, follow the Christmas Shoe Box buddy for the homeless initiative on Facebook.

Among the charities taking part are Elizabeth Street Project, Burnley; Hyndburn Helpers, Accrington; Thomas Project, Blackburn and Salford; Crossroads, Nelson; Trinity Church, Oswaldtwistle; Salvation Army, all areas; Nightsafe, Blackburn; SafeSpace, Burnley; Free Project, Blackburn; Women’s Refuge, Blackburn; East Lancs Pyramid Project, Burnley; Stepping Stone, Burnley, Rawtenstall and outreach to Rochdale and Manchester; Foxton Centre, Preston and Maundy Relief.