For the last seven years, Sam Eedle has sent hundreds of gift boxes to soldiers serving in Afghanistan.
Now, as troops in Helmand prepare to end their final tours, the Tewkesbury man may soon have to call it a day having filled 1,180 shoeboxes with goodies. Items he has sent across include sweets, snacks, socks, tea and coffee, books, toiletries, puzzle books and games for the troops to play.
Sam, a graphic designer who attends Holy Trinity Church in Tewkesbury, has found support in his task from worshippers in the congregation.
A former member of the Territorial Army in the 1980s, he began his mission in September 2007 after hearing from a friend stationed in the country.
He said: “At the time, I knew two people who were out in Afghanistan – a doctor and an infantry officer. The doctor had mentioned that he wanted a PlayStation to play on, so we sent one across to him, along with some games, in three boxes.
“I had the idea of sending other things out to them, such as sweets, and launched an appeal at Holy Trinity which had a huge response.”
Sam admitted that he had never envisioned it would last any longer than a few months when he first began it.
“It seems to have caught people’s imagination and lots of different groups have become involved in collecting items to send,” he said.
“There is a coffee club in church that meets every Wednesday, who have been doing their bit and, at the other end of the scale, we have had the Royal British Legion, the local RAF Veterans and various social clubs getting involved.
“The support has taken me completely by surprise – I didn’t think it would last six months.”