H&J Smith Supporting Families at Christmas

By PSS | Posted: Thursday December 22, 2016

More than 140 Invercargill children will be unwrapping special gifts on Christmas Day, thanks to the generosity of H&J Smith shoppers and the store itself. 

The H&J Smith Secret Santa Tree has been a popular addition to the Invercargill department store for years, and this year has proved no different.

Generous shoppers, and the store itself, have donated hundreds of presents, which will be unwrapped by 140 children, 49 mothers, six fathers and one grandmother on Christmas morning.

All of the recipients are part of the Family Start programme, run by Family Works.

The initiative requires an intricate level of planning and, thanks to the work of H&J Smith office administrator Robyn Colvin, it all runs smoothly.

Family Start staff submit a list to H&J Smith, featuring the names, ages and genders of children. The public are then able to purchase gifts anonymously for children who would otherwise miss out.

Behind the scenes, it’s much more than that.

Robyn ensures if there are multiple children in a family, that the gifts they receive are equally weighted. She has to change names on the tags to ensure the process is anonymous and children receiving the gifts are not recognised, then change them back to the real names before the gifts are taken to Family Works.

She organises the tree, the ribbon, the gift tags, the signage – and so much more.

The store itself provides presents for mothers and fathers.

“It gives staff and the public the opportunity to help someone less fortunate that themselves,” Robyn says.
“This year we also had a class from St Theresa’s School who wanted to contribute, so we gave them a list of four families and they put together parcels for the children. They sent us a card saying “Thank you for helping us to help those who are less fortunate’.”
“It’s humbling to see the generosity of people to strangers.”

Family Works Manager Dawn Lloyd said the gifts made a huge difference to families, and Family Works staff were so happy to be able to deliver them.

“It makes such a difference,” she said.
“With the Family Start programme we work with 206 families in Invercargill, and H&J Smith supports a huge number of those who really need the help.”

In acknowledgement of the contribution of H&J Smith over many years, Chief Executive Peter Wards presented H&J Smith with an Extra Mile Award – only the 10th such award the organisation had ever given out.

“We value H&J Smith’s contribution so very much – it’s just awesome,” he said.