Bringing cheer to Chatswood's needy
“I'm still overwhelmed by how generous the public are. Coordinating Christmas Cheer at Chatswood for so many years has also made me realise that although there's lots of gifts here, it's more than the gift. It's the gift of hope really – we're giving these people hope.” – Carol Ennis, The Salvation Army Chatswood.
Each year, Chatswood Salvation Army celebrates Christmas by running a 'Christmas Cheer' event to help disadvantaged families in the community.
The Chatswood community is very supportive. The Salvation Army receives donations from local businesses, schools, the Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal and personal donations from people who want to brighten the Christmas of those less fortunate than themselves.
The Salvation Army's Carol Ennis says volunteers are vital in the success of Christmas Cheer at Chatswood Salvation Army: “We are very fortunate to have willing volunteers who assist us in the initial set-up. The work involved is quite varied, from unwrapping and sorting gifts, sorting and stacking foodstuffs, to helping the clients with their selection.
“Christmas Cheer aims to reach everyone in need on the Lower North Shore at Christmas time,” she says. “As well as families we have elderly people who struggle on the aged pension who receive gifts – this may be the only gift they will have and they often become quite emotional and overwhelmed by the generosity we are able to offer, thanks to the generous donations we receive.”
Each person that comes to Christmas Cheer also receives a food hamper.
Carol says she’ll never forget one recipient of Christmas Cheer – a young woman who turned up at the door of the Salvos a few months before Christmas, homeless with a newborn baby.
She had been living in a domestic-violence situation and had left when she was seven months pregnant. Now, she had been forced to leave her crisis refuge when her former partner had discovered her location. She was destitute.
The young woman eventually found a unit to rent through community housing but had absolutely nothing to put into it. She didn’t even have much clothing for herself or her newborn baby. The Salvation Army was able to assist her with furniture and whitegoods and also supplied her with some clothing for herself and the baby
Carol surprised her with a Christmas gift of a camera to record her baby’s progress. “She was overwhelmed by the assistance given and I got quite emotional myself [as she sat] there with tears of gratitude streaming down.”
As part of Christmas Cheer gifts are also distributed to other Salvation Army centres, such as those in rural NSW. Chatswood Salvation Army also assists other areas of The Salvation Army including its women’s refuges.
How to donate a gift
To donate to the K-Mart Wishing Tree appeal simply visit your nearest Kmart store and take a tag from the Wishing Tree. Using one end of the tag, indicate the age group and gender who you think might like to receive your gift. Purchase a gift (it doesn’t have to be from K-Mart), place the tag on the gift and place it under the Wishing Tree. Please note, gifts do not need to be wrapped and second-hand gifts cannot be accepted.
Words by Lauren Martin. Photos by Lena Pobjie.