Counting down . . . Salvation Army foodbank co-ordinator Peter Lobb (left) with Otago Girls' High School pupils (from left) Ella Williams, Gemma Wilson, Jasmine Roberts, Lucy Currier and Elizabeth Wells and Salvation Army executive ministry leader David Mckenzie (rear) as they prepare food boxes for struggling members of the community to enjoy at Christmas. PHOTO: EMMA PERRY

While many are preparing to finish up for the year and begin holidays, Dunedin’s social service agencies are just getting started.

Those attempting to ease the pressures of Christmas for people in need this year include the Salvation Army, Anglican Family Care, Presbyterian Support Otago and Catholic Social Services.

Alongside the Methodist Mission and St Vincent de Paul they form the Christian Helping Agencies Group and are working tirelessly to ensure that this Christmas people have enough through the Christmas Hamper Project.

The agencies are all working on other Christmas projects. They all said without public support those projects would be impossible.

The Salvation Army is in the midst of its busiest time of year, receiving donations of food and toys from the public and distributing them to those in need.

Salvation Army executive ministry leader David Mckenzie estimated about 7000 cans had been received as a result of the Community Can Drive last week.

The Salvation Army is also distributing 130 hampers of its own alongside the Christmas Hamper Project.

“We are trying to individualise these hampers to families’ requirements and make them special.”

focus this year is on children and helping them to have the best Christmas they can, as well as combating any risks or issues around family violence.

Anglican Family Care director Nicola Taylor said pressure from advertising often meant parents felt they had to fulfil their role by spending more than they could afford.

“The ideal family of the smiling mum, dad and two kids shown in advertising is often not a reality.

“With all of the commercialisation of Christmas and the stress surrounding it people start to get manic.”

Presbyterian Support Otago has been working on its Christmas support for the past few weeks.

It has run a “Stock the Bus” campaign, in which a bus was sent around Dunedin to pick up food and toys from people.

As well as this, money was raised through a Givealittle page to enable struggling teenagers to afford a trip to the movies with their friends.

Presbyterian Support Otago communications and marketing manager Warren Rosser said even some working-class families’ incomes were not enough to sustain them.

“What we are seeing is that people from all walks of life and backgrounds are seeking our help.

“Finances are tight across the board and there is no longer one socio-economic group requiring our support.”

Catholic Social Services is working hard to ensure that no-one goes hungry this Christmas.

It is putting on a Christmas Eve dinner in conjunction with Mercy parish for struggling community members.

Catholic Social Services director Mike Tonks said people were no longer dealing with income issues alone and social isolation and family issues were becoming more common.

“There are many expectations around Christmas which cause financial difficulties, but there is also an aspect of social isolation.

“Christmas is lonely for many people.”