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Good gifts  . . . Timaru Salvation Army corps officers Emma and Jacob Howan show off some of the hundreds of toys and other gifts that have been donated for 100 families in the town for Christmas. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

by Greta Yeoman

More than 100 Timaru families will receive gifts and Christmas food parcels to get them through the festive season.

Timaru corps officer Jacob Howan said the estimated 250 families the Timaru Salvation Army would be supporting over the Christmas period would include about 100 families getting Christmas food and present parcels, as well as others coming in for standard food parcels and other services.

Last year, 17,000 New Zealanders across the country sought support from the Salvation Army.

Corps officer Emma Howan said the toys and food parcels for Christmas were often provided by businesses who would give in bulk, as well as donations from the community.

When The Courier visited the room storing gifts for children last Wednesday, there were toys, books, sports equipment, teddy bears and plenty of other options for parents and caregivers to select for their children.

Presbyterian Support South Canterbury Family Works manager Liz Nolan said the number of food parcels and gifts distributed by the organisation to families before Christmas was increasing.

Gifts dropped off by the community were being shared with other agencies in South Canterbury, she said.

The organisation had passed on 57 gifts for children and 25 for their parents on a single day last week, Ms Nolan said.

“This would not be possible without the generous support from the South Canterbury community – it is just amazing.”

Whitcoulls had also given to Family Works 160 “Theodore” teddy bears, which would all have “new homes” on Christmas Day, Ms Nolan said.

A recent online survey, conducted by a third party on behalf of the Salvation Army, received more than 1000 responses from New Zealanders over 18.

The results found 23% said they could not afford to celebrate the festive season, while 45% of respondents said Christmas was a time of financial struggle.

“When we see results like this from the general public, we fear for our most vulnerable people,” the Army’s head of welfare services, Major Pam Waugh, said of the survey.

“[It is] not those who overspent on parties or presents, but the ones who will come to us for food and shelter over the Christmas period.”