Helping Families Nelson manager Kristy Rowe alongside Rotary club volunteers Diana Wilkins and Kevin Gear. Photo: Erin Bradnock.

Rushing to help Nelson families ahead of Christmas

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Nelson charities are racing to meet a sharp rise in demand as Christmas looms and more families are struggling this year following the Covid-19 lockdown.

Whakatu Women’s Refuge manager Diane Strong describes the pressures of Covid-19 and Christmas as “pushing a strained system into a tight bottle neck”.

“People are being paid for less hours, have lost their employment, and this has had a huge impact on poverty,” she says.

In the past, Diane says they have always relied on community generosity but says this year is an exception.

“We understand and don’t want to put pressure on because a lot of our whanau of givers are now themselves experiencing the consequences of Covid.”

The refuge put out a call this week for donations to their communal cupboard as their kai supplies are running low.

“We would really appreciate dry and non-perishable foods that are basic pantry staples so that whanau can easily cook,” says Diane.

Kristy Rowe, manager of Helping Families Nelson, says there has been a lot of pressure on parents, especially since Covid.

“We hope we can relieve some of that pressure for families.”

However, they have found the community have exceeded their expectations for donations.

“We were hoping to gather at least 100 gift boxes but now we’ve collected over 300. The donations have blown us away,” says Kristy.

On top of the Christmas boxes, Helping Families have also been preparing for their annual Christmas giveaway on December 12 at the Headingly Centre from 10am, with clothes, food, furniture and more to giveaway alongside a Christmas party for the kids.

Nelson Foodbank is another essential service relying on community generosity and preparing for an expected rise in demand.

A spokesperson says since lockdown there has been a large increase in the number of people who are finding themselves turning to their services.

“A food parcel can bring a huge relief especially if there are children in the house, especially around Christmas there are the added pressures of presents and a dinner which can make Christmas a very stressful time.”

Louise Parry from the Salvation Army says they are expecting a 20 percent increase in people requesting help with food parcels and gifts this year, as the last Covid related wage subsidies and benefits finish.

“There is a new cohort of people coming to The Salvation Army for help for the first time. But it’s those who are already struggling on very limited incomes who continue to be the most vulnerable.”