Generous spirit shines through

IT still brings an occasional tear to her eye when Susan Cheetham sees the community’s generosity.

As the Border co-ordinator of the Operation Santa Christmas Gift Appeal, she has seen hundreds and hundreds of gifts flood in since mid-October.

“We have this handmade doll’s house that’s been donated, today there’s been a beautiful pushbike and there’s been lots and lots of teddy bears,” Mrs Cheetham said.

“We’ve had some really nice quality gifts from people — there will be an awful lot of families happy on Christmas morning.”

Mrs Cheetham said while the meaning of Christmas for her was about celebrating the birth of Christ, in Australia’s culture it was also about family time.

“It is the single most important time of the year for families and this gift giving is part of that, it’s what makes it special and significant.”

Before this year the appeal catered for the needs of about 350 families in Wodonga and district alone, or about 1000 children.

That translates to about 1800 gifts, as UnitingCare usually drops a book in with each gift.

Mrs Cheetham said all of the welfare agencies had had an increase in demand this year, “which is not good but that’s how it is”.

That meant the same thing was happening with the appeal.

“The demand for families to receive gifts has gone up,” she said.

“We’re going quite well at this point, but we still need a lot more gifts. This weekend really is at the pointy end of it because this is the time when everyone’s going to be out shopping.”

The appeal is a partnership of the Salvation Army, Society of St Vincent de Paul and UnitingCare Wodonga. Mrs Cheetham said it was hoped that up to another 700 gifts could be donated, which she acknowledged was “a large ask” for the community.

“We had some hand-knitted things today and some beautiful makeup kits for teenage girls,” she said.

“I cry every now and then when I look at the things we’re getting.

“It says that people in this community do care for other people.

Distribution of gifts will begin at the end of next week.

Gifts can be donated under one of the Christmas giving trees at the entrance to Target, at Safeway stores and ABC Goulburn Murray in Wodonga.

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