Maggie's wrappers top tips

WRAPPING Christmas presents can drive you crackers so it's a relief to know there are experts on hand to help you out.

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A dedicated team of volunteers from Maggie's cancer caring centres will be assisting harassed shoppers at St Enoch, Buchanan Galleries and Silverburn malls this festive season.

ANN FOTHERINGHAM got some top tips from three women with a special connection to Maggie's as they revealed six of the best wrapping papers in the shops this Christmas.

JUDY Norman has been a 'wrapper' for Maggie's for six years but her connection to the charity stretches back to 2002.

Diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, she endured months of treatment and surgery.

Halfway through, doctors discovered a pre-cancerous growth on her bowel, and she needed an emergency operation to remove it.

As she recovered, her husband David – who had been her rock throughout her treatment – fell ill and the family was devastated to learn he had a brain tumour. He died just three months later, in August 2005.

"I went through four years of absolute hell," says Judy.

"It was the worst of times, but Maggie's saved my sanity. I couldn't have got through it all without them."

Judy, 60, lives in Giffnock and has three sons, Ben, Oli and Tim, and a daughter, Lynsey.

She helps out with the Christmas wrapping service, she says, "to give something back".

Last year, Judy and a 60-strong team of volunteers raised more than £10,000 for the charity, which provides emotional, social and practical support to people with cancer, their friends and families.

With close friends Melanie Jinks, 59, from Eaglesham and Fiona Irwin, 38, from Partick, Judy has stuck, folded and trimmed a huge assortment of gifts over the years.

"It's a lovely thing to do and it can be hilarious – we have been asked to wrap some strange things, not all of them suitable for a mention in a family newspaper," says Judy.

"My favourite was a sledge, which was quite tricky, and we always get noisy baby toys which don't stop shaking and moving when you wrap them."

Melanie adds: "Some people turn up with bin bags full of stuff, and the queues get long.

"It is non-stop most days and a four-hour shift can fly in."

Fiona says: "Some people – usually men – leave the gifts, go and have a coffee and then come back when they are all done.

"Others stand and watch, which can be really nerve-racking."

Maggie's Gartnavel fundraising organiser Julie Ionta explains that Christmas wrapping is an important part of the charity's festive calendar.

SHE says: "It helps raise vital funds and it is such a wonderfully festive event for everyone who takes part.

"There is a real sense of getting into the spirit of the season and helping to spread a bit of Christmas cheer to those out shopping. None of it would be possible without our tremendous volunteers who always show such dedication, energy and enthusiasm."

Maggie's Christmas Wrapping Service runs from December 15 to 23 in St Enoch Centre, Silverburn and Buchanan Galleries shopping centres.

Afternoon and evening shifts are still available so if you would like to help out, call 0141 330 9791 or email julie.ionta@maggiescentres.org.

Waterstones are also offering a gift wrapping service for Maggie's and the charity is looking for volunteers to help out from December 21 to 23 in East Kilbride, Argyle Street, Braehead, Sauchiehall Street and Stirling.

We asked Judy, Melanie and Fiona to give us their top tips on how to wrap the perfect present, and to reveal their six best wrapping papers on sale this Christmas. Here are their results.

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