A headteacher and her family have a very special festive tradition in memory of her kind mum. Every year, Maria Butt, a South Shields headteacher, and her family of elf elders and elves, collect and buy toys for grateful families in the region to ensure as many children as possible wake up to a present on Christmas morning.

Norah’s North Pole was inspired by great-grandmother Norah Wilkinson, from Sunderland, who lived by the motto ‘It’s nice to be nice’ and believed in teaching her children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews the power of giving to others.

In the lead up to Christmas, she would go shopping and ask the children in her family to choose presents for other children who may not be as fortunate as them and give them to local families.

When she passed away aged 92 in the summer of 2015, her family decided to continue her fantastic tradition and so Norah’s North Pole was born at Christmas eight years ago.

Every year, through the power of word of mouth and social media, the good cause has grown and grown with thousands of children benefitting from their kindness, generosity and willingness to give up their free time to raise awareness of the good cause, buy and wrap presents and deliver them to families across the region.

This weekend, in a top-secret location, the busy elves will sort and wrap toys ready to be delivered to as many families as possible across the region, but Norah’s North Pole needs your help to ensure every child with a wishlist will wake up with happy faces and relieved families.

The family is super proud of the success of Norah’s North Pole and is urging more people and businesses to come forward to donate presents. There are thousands of names on Norah’s North Pole’s list but not enough donations to be matched with each child yet.

My Mam always used to say, ‘It’s nice to be nice’,” said Mrs Butt, headteacher of Ss Peter and Paul Catholic Primary School, which is part of Bishop Chadwick Catholic Education Trust.

She would take her grandchildren shopping before Christmas to buy a present for children who may not get any. When she died, my niece Victoria suggested we carry on her tradition and so started Norah’s North Pole. Thanks to the generosity of people and local businesses, we are able to deliver toys to thousands of children, but we urgently need more this week, so we can ensure as many children – from babies to teenagers – wake up with a present on Christmas morning.

Norah’s granddaughters and Maria’s nieces, Sarah and Sophie Imrie added: “Our mission is to make sure no child wakes up on Christmas morning, thinking Santa has forgotten them. We understand that the families Norah’s North Pole support are living in very difficult circumstances and if all we can do to help them is to ensure they experience some happiness on Christmas Day, then that is what we strive to do.

We live by Norah’s motto ‘It’s nice to be nice’ and by sprinkling some Christmas kindness we can help make happy Christmas memories for children in the North East. We hope each one of them wakes up on Christmas morning with a smile on their face.

Norah’s North Pole is not a charity; it’s “just a family who wants to make a difference and sprinkle a little Christmas kindness”.

There are two ways people can support Norah’s North Pole:

  • Donating via GoFundMe page https://bit.ly/NNPGoFundMe2023.
  • Collecting gift donations for Norah’s North Pole and dropping them off at one of the North East collection points.

All toy donations need to be dropped off in time for packing and special deliveries over the weekend of 16 and 17 December.

Drop-off points for toys are:

  • Ss Peter and Paul Catholic Primary School, South Shields, NE33 4RD (Monday – Friday, 9.30am – 4.00pm).
  • ReVIBe Marketing, Marine Activities Centre, Sunderland Marina, SR6 0PW (Monday – Friday, 9.00am- 5.00pm).
  • Eppleton Academy Primary School & Nursery, Hetton le Hole, DH5 9AJ (Monday – Friday, 9.30am – 4.00pm).
  • Kalmer Counselling, North Fawdon Community Centre, Newcastle, NE3 2PL (Monday – Friday, 9.00am – 4.00pm).
  • The Hoi Polloi, 13 Nun Street, Newcastle, NE1 5AG (Tuesday – Friday, 10.00am – 7.00pm).
  • Social +, Suite 6, 126 Great Lime Road, Newcastle, NE12 6EU (Monday – Friday, 9.00am – 5.00pm).
  • Poplar Tree Garden Centre, Shincliffe, Durham, DH1 2NG (Monday – Friday, 9.00am – 5.30pm).
  • Old Rectory, The Broadway, Houghton le Spring, DH4 4BB.
  • Cornerstone Community Hub, Whitewell Road, Blaydon, NE21 5EL (Wednesday – Thursday, 10.00am – 4.00pm).
  • Attick Charity Shop, 30 Front Street, Winlaton, NE21 6DD (Thursday – Saturday, 9.30am – 12.00pm).
  • Queen Elizabeth Hospital, The Peter Smith Surgery Centre, Gateshead, NE9 6RH (daily, 7.30am – 8.00pm).
  • Aquatics Centre, Stadium Park, Monkwearmouth, SR5 1SU (Monday – Friday, 5.30am – 9.00pm).
  • Lloyds Bank, Fawcett Street, Sunderland, SR1 1SF (Monday – Friday, 9.00am – 5.00pm).
  • Lloyds Bank, King Street, South Shields, NE33 1DT (Monday – Friday, 9.00am – 3.30pm).
  • Lloyds Bank, Ellison Walk, Gateshead, NE8 1BF (Monday – Friday, 9.00am – 4.00pm).
  • Lloyds Bank Team Valley, Gateshead, NE11 0EN (Monday – Friday, 9.00am – 3.30pm).
  • Gallery 108 Hairdressers, 108 High Street, Gosforth, Newcastle, NE3 1HB (Wednesday – Thursday, 9.00am – 8.00pm, Friday, 9.00am – 5.00pm).
  • East Boldon Junior School, North Lane, East Boldon, NE36 0DL (Monday – Friday, 9.00am – 3.30pm).
  • East Boldon & Cleadon Community Library, Boker Lane, East Boldon, NE36 0RY (Thursday, 10.00am – 5.00pm, Friday 10.00am – 1.00pm).
  • Pantrini’s Fish and Chips, Marine Avenue, Whitley Bay, NE26 1LX (daily, 11.30am – 9.00pm).

For more information about Norah’s North Pole, visit www.norahsnorthpole.co.uk.

For more information, please visit www.bccet.org.uk

Press release issued by SASS media on behalf of Bishop Chadwick Catholic Education Trust. For more information, contact Sarah Dale on 07814 976582.