Southlanders brighten Christmas for families in need

By Petrina Wright | Posted: Monday February 12, 2024

The community rallied behind Invercargill Central’s giving tree last year, donating more than 300 gifts to support Family Works’ Family Start families in need at Christmas.

Family Works manager Kris Wallis said these families would have struggled to provide Christmas gifts for their children without the support.

Kris thanked the staff of Invercargill Central for supporting the Christmas gift appeal and the community for getting behind it. The support meant families who were struggling financially were able to give their children a wonderful Christmas.

“Thank you, Southland. We couldn’t have done it without you.”

She said one family told her staff they were particularly grateful for the gifts as it meant they could then afford to travel to Christchurch and pick up their daughter so she could spend Christmas with her Invercargill family.

Another recipient said his young son was in love with the stuffed toy he received, and he now slept with it every night.

For more than 10 years, families in the Family Start Programme had been the recipient of the H&J Smith Secret Santa Tree.

Following the closure of H&J Smith this year, staff at Invercargill Central approached Family Works offering to host the gift appeal in the shopping centre. A Christmas tree was erected in the shopping centre where people could drop off gifts for the appeal.

Kris said Family Works was thrilled Invercargill Central had taken up the mantle.

Invercargill Central centre manager Kelvin Mooney said they were pleased to be able to continue the tradition of supporting Family Start families at Christmas.

“Giving our customers the opportunity to bring some joy to families on Christmas morning is a great way to celebrate the festive season.”

Family Work’s Family Start Programme is a free, home-based programme to support parents of children from pregnancy to five years of age who are experiencing difficulties, such as housing issues, multiple births, relationship issues, physical or mental health issues, lack of support, or addictions.

The programme is offered in Invercargill, Te Anau, Manapouri, Gore and Mataura.