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Scouts bring festive cheer to their communities.

Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan’s Scout post project is a long-running annual institution, providing yet another chance for both Scouts and volunteers to have a tangible impact on their community.

Starting small

In operation for more than 30 years, CATVOG Scout Post started with just two Groups; 5th Cardiff and 1st Llanishen, and now covers the whole of the city and the surrounding Vale.

‘It started small; the Groups weren’t sure where it was going to go,’ says Keith Burfoot, Area Vice President. ‘More Groups got involved and it grew very rapidly. By the third or fourth year there were around 30 Scout Groups involved.’

It’s no surprise that it snowballed so rapidly: when it comes to community Scouts are always the first to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in.

‘It’s probably the biggest Scout post project in the country,’ says Paul Willicombe, Chairman and Co-ordinator. ‘We sort and deliver between 700,000 and 800,000 cards every year.’

Operation Scout post

It’s an impressive and well co-ordinated operation, with volunteers and parents pitching in to sort, while Scouts head out in their hundreds to deliver.

‘I begin planning around June and there’s a deadline of 31 July to identify and tell me which outlets will sell the stamps,’ says Paul. ‘The stamps are issued in October; we have our first mass sort at the end of November and Scouts start delivering in December.’

A range of local businesses sell special Scout stamps; customers can then post their letters in the Scout post boxes, which are also located in the stores. Scout Groups come and collect the letters, sort them into areas at each of their HQs and then take them to 29th Cardiff’s HQ, a large hall in Pontcanna; a process known as ‘the swap’.

Adult volunteers eventually team up with Scouts of all ages to deliver the Christmas cards to the local communities. It’s a frantic time that’s not been without the odd hiccup…

Perseverance post 

The project covers an impressive 47 areas, and cards still appear for addresses further afield. ‘For a couple of years we had a card addressed to someone in Saudi Arabia,’ says Keith. ‘It just so happened though that one of our volunteers had a Saudi contact, so they took the card with them and ensured it was delivered.

‘Letters are sometimes just addressed as Uncle Jim or Auntie Mary with nothing else written on the envelope,’ adds Keith. ‘You also get other letters for Mr and Mrs Jones, Newport Road, Cardiff; but Newport Road goes up to about 800 and is over two miles long.’

Angry dogs, security gates and severe weather are just some of the obstacles the hardy Scouts face. ‘Our biggest problem is snow,’ says Keith. ‘A few years ago Cardiff had about 18 inches. We kept calling the Groups to check on their progress. A lady near where I live, in a hilly area, couldn’t get to the swap. I travelled to her, collected her post and did it for her.’

Despite all the obstacles, Scouts and volunteers persevere and continue to do sterling work throughout the festive season to ensure cards arrive safe and sound.

Community spirit

Community is at the heart of the Scouts post project; without the Groups’ passion for where they live and the tireless help of volunteers, the project just wouldn’t exist.

‘It’s a fantastic service and a great fundraiser for the Scout Groups,’ says Fay Harding-Lewis, Area Appointments Secretary and Assistant Cub Scout Leader. ‘Most of the money we make from selling stamps goes right back into Scouting.’ In fact, the scheme raises over £170,000 a year for the participating Groups and Areas.

Fay continues: ‘Older people particularly appreciate the project. The older generation still send a lot of cards and sometimes Christmas is the only time that families contact each other, which is sad but true, so Scouts help make that happen.’

The sense of community drives the project, not just in terms of the fantastic impact it has, but the way it brings people together.

‘The post sort used to be based at the HQ of a Scout Group I ran and we’d keep it open all day and invite anyone who wanted to come along,’ remembers Keith. ‘It got to a stage where we had retired postmen coming in, grandmothers of Cubs, neighbours and friends. People would bake and bring in scones and cakes and it would be a real social occasion.’

With electronic greetings cards increasing in popularity, the postal service could well be a thing of the past in a few years, which would be a great loss for the community. But with enough help from parents and volunteers, Paul hopes that the project will last another 30 years.

‘Having enough adult support to allow it to continue is the key to keeping it going,’ says Paul. ‘It’s the Scouts’ parents that we mainly rely on to do the delivery. It’s thanks to them that we’ve kept the scheme going.’

More festive feats

Scouts from all over the UK are busy delivering post in their communities during the winter weeks...

Wirral Scouts and Guides have been delivering Christmas post for over 30 years, while 1st Sedgefield in County Durham and 1st Malden in London will be busy with Scout post during the festive season.

Huntspill and Highbridge Scout Group will be delivering post to residents in and around Burnham-On-Sea and Explorer Scouts are back with their delivery service in Ruislip, Eastcote and Northwood.

Scouts in Hereford will also be out in force during December, while 8th/26th Calder Valley Scout Post team will be tackling the chilly streets of Clackmannanshire in Scotland.

Tell us about any festive projects your Group have been involved in: scouting.magazine@scouts.org.uk.

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