KNOWING a loved one will be away over Christmas is an upsetting reality that thousands of soldiers’ families are facing this year.

For Chipping Norton mum-of-three Jo-Anne Box, saying goodbye to her brother Andrew Rorke when he left for a six-month tour of Afghanistan in September was one of the hardest things she has had to do.

But the 32-year-old decided she could still make a difference to his Christmas Day by packing present parcels for the charity Support Our Soldiers.

Mrs Box, who is calling for donations from the community with her mother Anneke Rorke, said: “We were so worried and so upset about him going we had to do something to take our minds off things. “This is for all the soldiers in our community. I wanted to do something for a few of them, but it turned into something a lot bigger.”

Chipping Norton dad-of-two Mr Rorke, 33, is a staff sergeant for the Royal Logistic Corps based at Dalton Barracks in Abingdon.

Mrs Box, who is trying to gather enough donations to send 200 parcels to Oxfordshire troops, said: “It is all very loving and shows them we are thinking about them. There is definitely a lot of community spirit around.”

Businesses in the area including Beales, the Co-op, The Fox Hotel, Kingham Shop, Barron’s, Kingham Royal British Legion Club and Boots have already pledged their support.

Chipping Norton Pre-School pupils have been decorating shoe boxes and will be making Christmas cards for the appeal.

The Ace Centre nursery in Chipping Norton will also be decorating boxes and Chipping Norton High School will be making Christmas cards to go into the boxes.

Donations should be made by the end of November, when a group of volunteers will be packing them into parcels.

A coffee morning is also being held on November 10 to raise cash for Support our Soldiers at The Fox Hotel in Market Place from 10am-noon.

Anyone who would like to support the campaign, or those who know someone on tour who would appreciate a parcel, can email or search for Operation Appreciation Oxfordshire on Facebook.

To find out more about Support Our Solders, visit

  • The Ministry of Defence urges people only to send donations to troops through charities that follow strict guidelines. These include the Operations Welfare Fund, uk4u Thanks!, the Christmas Box charity, Support Our Soldiers and Operation Shoebox.