Bringing Southland together for a special Christmas

By Cassandra Pokoney | Posted: Thursday April 8, 2021

While Christmas for many people is a time of joy, happiness, being with family, eating plenty of good food, and celebrating, for others it is a time of stress, loneliness, or struggle.

But the Southland community is a generous one, and by working together we can help ease some of that stress, bring smiles to faces, and create a Christmas people can remember and cherish. 

Take a look below at some of the ways Presbyterian Support through it's Family Works service, with the help of the Southland community, were able to make Christmas a bit more magical for hundreds of families and vulnerable people last year.

Kiwi Christmas Books:

For many children, a book is one of the staple Christmas gifts. But for some families, who are working hard to put food on the table and keep bills paid, extras, like books, are luxuries that aren’t on offer at Christmas. Which is why we were so hugely grateful to receive 650 brand new books, donated by the Kiwi Christmas Books.

Here’s what Pam, from Kiwi Christmas Books, had to say about why they got involved.

“In 2019 my daughter Sonya Wilson came up with the idea of Kiwi Christmas Books and launched this charity in Auckland. It was so successful she decided to call on friends and family in other parts of New Zealand to support this cause and spread it nation wide. I became involved because I loved the idea of children who have more challenging lives than others getting something new at Christmas and what better than the smell of a new book? My daughter also initiated the charity with the idea of supporting New Zealand authors and I thought that was great. This is why we encourage people to donate books written by New Zealanders.
I have been involved with Family Works in the past through my work in ECE and also as part of the Buddy programme. I knew what a great job they do and how many families they work with each year,. I couldn’t think of a more worthy organisation to receive the books.”

Christmas gift appeal

The Southland community also showed its true colours in the amazing support received for the annual Family Works Christmas Appeal. This appeal, which aims to help provide gifts to families needing a bit of extra support, received the largest response to date from the community.

Businesses from throughout Southland, along with individuals from all works of life, dug deep and provided gifts. One family donated 20 New World food hampers (one of which was given to the family mentioned above) and through the appeal, 550 children in Southland had their Santa Sacks filled with gifts. This would not have happened if not for the outstanding support of the Southland community.

One of those businesses was NZME, who came on board as a partner and sponsored radio advertising for the appeal. They also had a Christmas tree at their office where they encouraged the public to donate to, and even brought Southland Real Estate on board to support the cause.

Here’s what the team from NZME had to say about why they got involved:

“NZME- The Hits, in partnership with Southland Real Estate were excited to be a part of being able to help families have a special Christmas.
“Everyone knows that anybody’s life can change in the blink of an eye and the certainty that we know and often take for granted is no longer there.
“Presbyterian Support Southland do so much in our community that we wanted to assist them as much as we could at a time that can be challenging for many families and be a part of children waking up on Christmas morning to experience the delight and joy they all deserve.”

So on behalf of our families, our residents, and our staff, we thank you Southland for recognizing the true meaning of the season and again going above and beyond to help make Christmas a magical occasion.

Christmas Hampers:

For years PSS' Family Works service has been supplying Christmas hampers to families they are working with, as a way to lessen the load they are facing.

However, in 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic meant the team needed to approach these hampers a bit differently, as the usual means of supplying the bulk of grocery items for the hampers was no longer an option.

This is where the Southland Community came in.

PSS Family Works staff reached out to the community to ask for help. And the response was astounding. It was truly humbling to see the community get in and support each other, to ensure Christmas was a beautiful and enjoyable occasion for as many people as possible.

Take a look at what our hamper coordinator Kate has to say about who helped and how well it was received.

“I am happy to say that this year was our best year yet as everything provided in the hampers was fully donated by the Southland business community. 
With Paul Woods Fire Protection supplying 50 frozen chickens, GWD providing all the canned fruit (a lot came from one persons lucky sweepstake win in the Melbourne cup) to cash donated by various companies to the eggs given free of charge from Craig’s Poultry in Herbert (North Otago) to our donations from Focus Technology (fresh fruit and vegetables via Plaza Supervalue) Anchor (Fonterra), Quality Bakers and Asaleo providing sanitary items to Malloch McLean coming on board with volunteers to help pack our hampers.

We received some wonderful feedback from families who received this assistance:

Thank you for the hand up over the Christmas period. It was gratefully received and appreciated. 
Thank you so much for the hamper. I can’t thank you enough for it at this time. 2020 really hasn’t been my year and I have found to struggle more than I thought I could handle, but with the support and help I’ve got through and super proud of everyone.

We also received some heartwarming feedback from one of our Family Works team members about their experience giving out a hamper:

"Today I took out a few wee gifts and a hamper to a family who have really struggled this year, mostly because of medical issues and the resulting stress these cause. When I got there, Mum stood there and cried. She explained that it was so unexpected that she just didn’t know what to say, she was so overwhelmed by the kindness of a stranger that she couldn’t stop crying, she admitted that it was probably the only gift she and her husband would receive as they were all so focused on the needs of the children within their family this year. For the first time in a long time I saw pure hope in this mum’s eyes, she had a bounce in her step and a smile on her face and this is all down to the person who made a small donation".
I just want to thank you for allowing me to experience today what Christmas is all about. 

Thank you so much to everyone involved in helping make this happen each year for Southland families in need.

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