THE SALVATION Army is bracing itself for an increase in the number of Keighley families needing donations of toys for their children.

Members fear a massive increase in children living in poverty could have a knock-on effect on whether families can afford to buy Christmas presents.

They could mean greater demand on the church’s annual toy appeal held jointly with the Keighley News and Sainsbury’s.

The appeal was this week launched at the town’s Sainsbury’s store in a bid to collect hundreds of new gifts for disadvantaged children across Keighley.

The Keighley News last week revealed that evidence from across Keighley showed soaring numbers of poverty-stricken children desperate for a meal.

There has been a massive surge in young people seeking free food from a soup kitchen, and schoolteachers are regularly buying food for hungry pupils to eat.

Salvation Army development manager Chris Bown this week echoed last week’s warnings from local councillor Jan Smithies and the Intouch Foundation, which runs a soup kitchen.

Mrs Bown said: “This year the need for food parcels from the Salvation Army has been greater – people are suffering because of things like benefits changes.

“We don’t know yet whether we will get more people needing toys because of this.”

The toy appeal usually helps around 350 youngsters, who are nominated by Keighley schools, family centres, and agencies dealing with issues such as domestic violence.

She said she knew she could count on Keighley News readers to be as generous as they had been in previous years.

She added: “People are really kind and want to get involved, and they know there is a great need. I’ve had quite a few people in touch with me already wanting to collect toys for the appeal.

“Sainsbury’s have been great over the years. They are the main collecting point in the town.”

People can also donate toys direct to the Salvation Army, on High Street, from Mondays to Thursdays between 9am and 3pm.

Donated toys must be new, and should be suitable for children and young people - boys and girls - up to the age of 16.

People can also give toiletries, for teenagers, or money, if preferred. Items should be taken to the collecting points unwrapped.

All the donated gifts will be wrapped and distributed to families on Christmas Eve.

Contact Mrs Bown on 01535 603494 if you can help or for further information.