Xmas hampers being given out

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Dunedin families in need this week, with the distribution of 300 festive food hampers from Dunedin’s Combined Christian Helping Agencies.

The annual project aims to provide families with a Christmas meal and treats, as well as toys and other gifts for family members.

A team of volunteers, led by co-ordinator Audrey Clarke, spent Tuesday filling the 300 hampers, ready for distribution yesterday and today from the Catholic Social Services centre in South Dunedin.

An associated team of volunteers, led by Kath Wallace, sorted hundreds of donated toys – from soft toys and wooden trucks to board games – for families to choose from.

The Combined Christian Helping Agencies (CCHA), which comprises Presbyterian Support Otago’s Family Works, Catholic Social Services, the Methodist Mission, Anglican Family Care, the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul, have provided the Christmas hamper service for the past 16 years, with the support of the public.

Presbyterian Support Otago social work supervisor Deb Gelling said the project was a means of helping take the pressure off families struggling at Christmas.

“These are not necessarily families that are connected to any particular service, but they just need a helping hand at Christmas,” Ms Gelling said.

“It’s all about trying to help make Christmas happy for everyone.”

The hampers contain everything required for a Christmas dinner, including a chicken, fresh and frozen vegetables, ice cream, pavlova and fruit for dessert.

Ms Gelling said the support of the Veggie Boys team at the business’ shop next to Catholic Social Services had simplified food distribution and families only had to go next door to collect their fresh vegetables.

Much of the food is bought by the CCHA with funds donated by the public during the year.

In August, a lack of funds put the hamper project under threat, until The Star put out the call for support on behalf of the agencies.

The public responded immediately, giving more than $15,000 to the cause.

“We are very grateful to the public for that support – we wouldn’t be able to do this project without it,” Ms Gelling said.

“And not only have people helped us with money, they have also donated an amazing selection of toys as well – it is just fantastic.”