Secret Santa is again working to make sure that 1,000 children wake up with a smile on Christmas morning - but its little helpers are currently only a quarter of the way there.

The community interest company, which is coming up to its fifth Christmas, helps to deliver 7,000 gifts to children living in poverty across Blackburn with Darwen who would otherwise wake up to nothing on Christmas morning.

Phil and Karen Boulding, from Lower Darwen, currently have the funds to put together 250 ‘red sacks of joy’ - just 25 per cent of their goal.

The couple said that the pandemic hitting the country last year and the detrimental effects it has had on households again this year meant more people seem to be struggling in the lead up to Christmas.

Phil said: “It seems that poverty in Blackburn with Darwen just doesn’t go away. The fear for us this year, we think more and more people are really feeling the pinch.

“It feels again we may not achieve our goal.”

Last year, Phil said they felt how much people were struggling to help but in the end managed to meet their goal and are hoping that closer to Christmas they may have the same luck.

Phil said that just £5 can help tremendously towards getting a child a present.

He said: “For anyone wishing to help, £5 would buy a toy, £10 would buy a main present and £25 will buy a full sack of presents.”

The couple started Secret Santa after finding out that 700 local children would go without a present on Christmas morning.

In their first year they hoped to put together 200 sacks of presents, but while driving home, Phil could not bear to think that 500 children would still go without.

Phil added: “We amended our goal and that year we actually succeeded in delivering 750 red Secret Santa bags of joy.

“The feeling of achieving that success during the first year spurred us to make it a yearly thing.

“Now here we are heading towards Christmas 2021 for our fifth year in a row.”

Over the past five years, the company has delivered almost 40,000 Christmas and Eid gifts, thousands of Easter eggs, nearly 200 computers for school children as well as a hosting events for the elderly and vulnerable to help tackle homelessness.

The shop in King William Street accepts donations of old and new toys to be sold in the shop as well as monetary donations to help towards the sacks.