Fury as doll donated to poor child ends up for sale in Northern Ireland shop
A woman has been left "horrified, hurt and angry" after a doll she worked on for months to send to a disadvantaged child in eastern Europe was seen for sale in a shop window in Richhill.
Sandra Barr, from Tandragee, carefully knitted and crocheted a beautiful outfit for a doll she hoped would be sent off by the Drop Inn Ministries as part of their Shoebox Appeal.
But to her anger, the 55-year-old spotted it being sold in another Drop Inn Ministries' store just days later.
"It was a very distinctive outfit, so I knew straight away when I saw it that it was mine," Sandra told the Belfast Telegraph.
"It had taken me three months to make the outfit for the doll because I had knitted and crocheted the whole thing.
"I asked the woman in the shop where they got it, and she said a member of the public had left it in. That wasn't true because I'd left it in a shoebox in the Tandragee shop last week."
"I made that doll's outfit using the best organic fabric and vintage wool and ribbon because all that went through my head was that some wee child that has nothing else can love this doll and look after it.
"That's why I was so upset when I saw it in the Drop Inn because some girl who has 40 dolls at home could just go in and get it and play with it for 10 minutes and forget about it again. I was horrified, hurt and angry."
Store staff failed to tell Sandra, who took the doll back, she had missed a November 18 cut-off for shoeboxes to be delivered.
The charity was founded in 1994 by Ronnie and Carolyn Dawson, from Richhill, as a way to reach out to people in the local community.
Sandra has since received an apology from Drop Inn Ministries, which said: "A volunteer inadvertently opened the box, priced the doll and placed it out for sale in the understanding that it was part of a consignment of stock. It was a genuine mistake from the person concerned, and we will be doing everything possible to make sure this does not happen again.
"We know that this should not have happened and offer our sincere apologies. As stated previously, it is not our practice to remove items from the Christmas boxes and offer them for sale."
But Sandra said: "I don't understand how a shoebox wrapped in Christmas paper with £15 worth of gel pens, chocolates, a colouring book and the doll could be mistaken for stock."
Much to her delight, though, the doll, with its gorgeous white, orange and yellow ensemble, has since found a new owner much closer to home.
"I put a post on Facebook and was inundated with people from Northern Ireland telling me these horror stories about people who need help this Christmas," Sandra explained.
"One girl was telling me about this family in Northern Ireland who are living in temporary accommodation and have absolutely nothing, so that's where it's going, which is nice."
Drop Inn Ministries investigated the matter and found it had been a "genuine mistake".
"We understand the frustration and disappointment that this has caused to the person who donated the Christmas gift," it said in a statement.
"We know that this should not have happened and have apologised to the lady concerned.
"The cut-off date for our shoebox appeal was November 18. We can guarantee that all shoeboxes we received prior to that date will be in the hands of children this Christmas."