AN army of volunteers is preparing to put smiles on the faces of hundreds of needy Inverclyde children this Christmas.

The Salvation Army in Greenock have launched their annual festive toy appeal, which is again backed by the Tele.

Each year they hand over hampers to boys and girls across the district thanks to generous donations from individuals, businesses and church groups, ensuring that no young person goes without at Christmas.

Donations have been flowing into the Regent Street citadel and to the Greenock Telegraph office but volunteers need more toys and are asking people to dig deep.

Last year 535 individuals and 243 families benefited and organisers are expecting demand to be even greater this time, due to the impact of changes to the benefits system and the increasing cost of living.

The appeal has been on the go for more than 30 years.

Organiser Maureen Pentland said: "Last year we ran out of everything. "It was one of the busiest years. "We've done quite well so far with donations but we need more - as much as possible.

"Because of the problems with universal credit and the increasing cost of living for folk, families are going to find it difficult and I think we will get even more referrals this year.

"Without the volunteers and especially the people who give so generously each year this definitely would not be possible.

"Their generosity makes such a difference to children and their families at Christmas."

The appeal helps boys and girls from birth to the age of 12.

Organisers ask that people donate new toys only and that they are unwrapped.

Those who receive hampers are referred from the local social work department, health visitors and charities such as Barnardo's.

Major Lynn Farmer said: "By doing this we are celebrating the greatest gift."

Donations can be handed into the Salvation Army hall between 9am and 3pm during the week.

The Tele office is open from 9am-5pm Monday to Thursday and until 4pm on Fridays.

The deadline for donations is December 14.