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Georgie's connection with the Salvos is personal

Georgie's connection with the Salvos is personal

Over the past handful of years, the Salvos have occupied a special place in the heart of the news presenter on Channel Nine’s Today Show and mother of two.

Georgie, you see, has experienced first-hand the wonderful work of The Salvation Army, spending countless hours sitting and chatting with its clients at the young mums and bubs group run by the Army’s Oasis Youth Support Network in Sydney.

“We’d all come together at Fox Studios with our babies and just chat about the week and compare notes and share stories and have a laugh,” she remembers fondly.

Despite her affluent upbringing, private schooling and high-profile career, the common denominator of having young children meant an instant connection with the young women in the group, many of whom were struggling in abusive relationships or with addiction issues and poverty.

“I found it a really beautiful way to connect with these mums in so far as we were all in a lot of ways experiencing the same things,” says Georgie. “The milestones, the funny bits but also the really exhausting, tricky bits.”

Georgie found out about Oasis, at the recommendation of a friend, when she had her first child, Bronte, in 2005. The mums and bubs group was a perfect fit. Oasis felt Georgie could contribute to the group by offering support and encouragement to the other mothers involved.

“But selfishly, I always thought that probably I got more out of it then they did,” she says. “So often I would come away in awe of the fierce love these mothers had for their babies despite the array of hardships I never had to endure. They were all so determined to break the cycle and I found that incredibly inspiring.”

That’s the compassionate side of Georgie Gardner that endears her to so many Australians as they watch her on their television sets every weekday morning.

She’s the newsreader who is often seen wiping a tear from her eye as she interviews a boy whose father is dying of cancer; she’s the mum who goes out of her way to support and encourage other mothers doing it tough; and she’s the woman who believes that life is spiritual, that selflessness breeds contentment and that connecting with others is about more than just a series of social media posts.

Her at times unhappy childhood – she was just five when her parents divorced – is, she believes, one of the reasons she feels drawn to The Salvation Army’s support services for young people in need. She knows what it’s like to be incredibly lonely, to feel unwelcome, and to be desperate enough to ring an anonymous hotline, crying out for someone to listen to her pain.

“I don’t want to even come close to suggesting that I was at the point of needing something like Oasis,” she says. However, she admits that her teenage years were tumultuous. “I can relate to feeling down and isolated and if there’s any way that I can use my profile to help then for me, it’s a no-brainer.”

While her children are now too old for the Oasis mums and bubs group (Bronte is eight and Angus six) Georgie remains a passionate advocate of The Salvation Army. In supporting this year’s Christmas campaign, she is hopeful that Australians will take the time to connect.

“I am at pains to say it’s not for me to tell other people what to do, but I just think that it’s amazing how a little bit of love and generosity and kindness and compassion and understanding can go a long way,” Georgie says. 

“My children are now just getting to an age where I want them to be involved with me in some way, shape or form, so that’s the next project for me. I think it’s all very well to write a cheque - and for some people that’s their way of contributing and that’s great - but there’s nothing like the hands-on practical ‘seeing it for yourself’, in my opinion.”

She’s urging those in need to reach out to organisations like The Salvation Army for support, knowing that if she didn’t get help during the darkest moments of her life, then she would not be where she is today.

“I’ve had a lot of counselling and I’m eternally grateful for it,” she says. “And I still tap into it from time to time when I need it.

“We don’t hesitate to go see a doctor when we come down with a bout of the flu so why wouldn’t we be doing everything we can to remedy and nurture our mental and emotional health.”

Having children and creating a loving family unit of her own has been one of the most positive and rewarding experiences of Georgie’s life. She and husband Tim want to pass on to their children values of compassion, generosity, appreciation of life’s blessings and selflessness.

“In the scheme of things my children are incredibly privileged and they don’t want for anything,” says Georgie. “They’re so lucky in terms of having a roof over their head and not having to worry about where the next meal is coming from.”

The Salvation Army’s K-Mart Wishing Tree is a way that Georgie and her children take time to connect with others at Christmas.

“We are very big fans of the [Salvation Army] Kmart Christmas Wishing Tree, we think it is a fantastic tradition,” she says. “Without sounding trite, it’s one of the things we look forward to the most.

“They [her children] love going around and shopping for that individual and then we wrap the present and put it under the tree. On Christmas morning it’s such a lovely discussion point,” she adds, explaining how Bronte and Angus speculate about who got the gift they purchased, whether or not they liked it, and if they are playing with it.

“The day wouldn’t be the same without doing that.”

It’s one of the many Christmas traditions that Georgie’s family enjoys. They spend time together, take the opportunity to stop and thank God for his blessings at their local church, and enjoy cooking a beautiful meal to share with family and friends.

“We just celebrate togetherness and try not to get too caught up in the whole materialism of it [Christmas],” she says. 

It’s just the type of Christmas that viewers of the Today Show would imagine Georgie Gardner having. 

Words by Lauren Martin. Photos by Penny Clay.

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