Going the extra mile

By PSS | Posted: Thursday December 20, 2018

If anyone knows anything about going the extra mile, it’s Robyn Colvin from Invercargill department store, H&J Smiths.

Robyn Colvin has led the H&J Smiths Secret Santa tree initiative for the past seven of the ten years that H&Js have supported the Family Start programme.

Family Start is a dedicated intensive home based service run by Family Works Southland, working alongside parents/caregivers to help achieve better health, education and social outcomes for their children.

Robyn said the support this year has been phenomenal. 30 large cartons of gifts were donated to the tree in support of Family Start, from both individuals and families within the Southland community.

“It’s a very emotional task”, says Robyn.
“Collecting the gifts and deciding which gifts are going to which family, a lot of thought is put into it”.

Robyn runs this initiative largely in her own time, coming to work in the early hours of the morning to make sure the presents are wrapped and organised for the families before the store opens.

Karen Willis, Family Works Team Leader, has worked hard this year to organise the initiative for Family Start in conjunction with Robyn and H&J Smiths, and has really enjoyed being a part of something that has such an astronomical effect across Southland.

Family Start supports families in the areas of child development, parenting, safety, mental health, substance abuse, addictions, domestic violence or any other issues pertaining to family needs.

These gifts make a huge difference to the kind of Christmas many families will experience, explains Judith McInerney, Family Works Director.

“Parents are humbled and appreciative of the assistance. This assistance not only allows them to give a lovely gift to their children but helps in reducing financial stress that could continue for some time into the New Year if they needed to use money from essentials to buy gifts for their children. Family Works really appreciate the generosity of Southlanders who have contributed gifts but also appreciate the personal time Robyn puts into making this happen for our families each year”.

John Prendergast, Presbyterian Support Southland Chief Executive said there’s an old saying that 'it’s better to give than receive'.

“I suspect for the kind Southlanders who give so generously to the Secret Santa Tree initiative, and for the children and families who receive these gifts on Christmas morning, it could well be a dead heat as to which of giving or receiving is better”, says John.
“The support from H&J’s is amazing, and brings out incredible generosity from Southlanders. As a result of the Secret Santa tree initiative, 30 deserving families will receive gifts that they otherwise could not even dream of”.