GIVING BIG: From left is Sally Hetzel (trustee), Logan and Chase Adams (volunteers), Don Everitt (Fifeshire Foundation Chairperson), Marissa Scott and Brenda McQuillan (Te Piki Oranga) with Leanne Churchill (Fifeshire Foundation Manager) loading up goodie bags for families in need. Photo: Kate Russell.

400 Christmas bags for families in need

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An increase of Nelson families needing help this Christmas has resulted in the creation of 400 goodie bags for ‘The Big Give’ appeal.

The Fifeshire Foundation are now in their eighth year of organising the fundraiser and manager Leanne Churchill says they’ve seen more need than ever this festive season.

“We only aimed for 300 bags this year, but the number kept climbing. It’s more than we’ve ever done. Last year we only did 270.”

And she says it’s not just the homeless and unemployed that are reaching out for help – it’s the working poor.

“The cost of housing is really putting the pressure on families. People are putting more than 50 per cent of their income towards rent, so even those in employment are living in poverty.”

Leanne says the spectrum of need is broad in Nelson.

“There are grandparents raising grandchildren who need help and then there have been a lot of late ‘help, I’m in dire need – something just happened today’ requests.”

Luckily, they’ve had no problems filling the bags – thanks to the generosity of the public along with local schools and businesses.

“We actually achieved it really easily. I reached out to more agencies. We had Knapps Lawyers coordinate law firms around the region to rally donations and we got carload after carload of them.”

Recipients are referred from social agencies and the bags are personalised for each family.

Leanne says there is more need for food items this year, so each bag includes a breakfast item, a dinner meal, Christmas treats, some staples such a canned food and a $50 grocery voucher.

Then there are age appropriate new toys and gifts for children, while teenagers get vouchers.

She says “new” is a luxury for many people so it’s nice to be able to provide some “Christmas cheer” to those who need it.

“It’s a huge year, there are just so many families in hardship needing additional support.”