'Hard slog' for Gran
Flinging open their doors to the grandchildren is second nature for John and Janice.
The Manukau couple look after five of their grandkids who are unable to live with their parents. At one stage they had 10.
They're happy to do it but often find the situation difficult.
And Christmas is especially daunting - filling five stockings on a pension is next to impossible.
So the family relies on the annual Manukau Courier and Salvation Army Christmas toy appeal to make the holidays merry for the children.
The appeal seeks donations of new or near-new toys, which are distributed to deserving families like Janice and John's.
"We're finding it really hard to get the kids anything so they just get excited when they know the Salvation Army's turning up at our door or they say, ‘Come here, we've got something for you'."
Janice is unable to work because an accident in 2008 affected the whole right side of her body.
"I had to learn how to walk again," she says.
And while John has a job, making ends meet is "a really hard slog".
"We've been down that track where we've had no presents for the kids. We've had to buy a blank tape each and that's been all the presents - just one each," Janice says.
"Christmas without the help of Salvation Army - I think it would be back to zero again."
The organisation has been invaluable in providing presents for their grandkids, she says.
Last year 14-year-old Tanisha received clothes while 13-year-old Taria got a Barbie doll and "heaps of teddy bears".
Salvation Army operations manager Stephen Farmer says there are many grandparents bringing up their grandchildren in Counties Manukau.
"It's a growing theme that we're seeing in South Auckland because the parents might be on methamphetamine or in jail," he says.
The charitable trust Grandparents Raising Grandchildren does what it can to help but there's no government support for grandparents in their situation and many families find it difficult to cope, Mr Farmer says.
Manukau Courier editor Judith Tucker is appealing to readers to display their usual generosity and give to the appeal.
"It doesn't take much to brighten one child's life at Christmas - if we all contribute a little something to the collection we'll be helping heaps of children across South Auckland," Ms Tucker says.
- Manukau Courier
Are our classrooms becoming overcrowded?