More need help this Christmas

LAURA BASHAM
Last updated 13:00 18/12/2012

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Unprecedented demand means the Salvation Army has run out of food for its Christmas gift hampers for needy residents in Nelson and Motueka.

But while requests are up, the Salvation Army is also challenging those asking for handouts.

"It's not a given. We try to aim at the people trying to make good choices," said Major Jill Knight.

She is asking for donations of food such as tinned fruit, special cereals and biscuits for the hampers.

Last year they gave out 160; this year they've already packed nearly 200 and requests are still coming in.

The Salvation Army co-ordinates referrals from agencies such as Budget Advice, Te Korowai Trust in Stoke, the Gateway Housing Trust, and Nelson Multicultural Council.

"People are really generous, I appreciate that," said Major Knight.

"It's a bigger demand this year.

"It's the next tier of people struggling; we're seeing more clients who we have not seen before."

They included people who had lost their jobs, she said.

This year the Salvation Army set up its own budget advice service with four budgeters.

There was more pressure from Work and Income on beneficiaries not just to draw up a budget but to show they were working it through, she said.

The Salvation Army will also deliver donated Christmas toys to more than 1000 children in Nelson and Motueka.

Major Knight said it was a good appeal because the Salvation Army worked closely with the agencies to ensure the toys went to families who were struggling and that there were no double-ups.

The hampers would only go to the most needy, she said.

"We like to say yes to everybody but not everybody needs to be said yes to," she said.

The Salvation Army would investigate requests for help to check if they were genuine, including asking to see bank accounts and receipts, she said.

"We like to love generously.

"People who are genuinely trying to make changes and good choices, we are right behind.

"But the ones who just want to use us, we are challenging them.

"We are not a grocery store.

"I am very conscious we are answerable to people who are donating as well as giving to people in need.

"It's about being real and responsible."

Major Knight, who has been working with needy families for 30 years, said it was only a short time since cellphones had been in use.

"For kids ‘it's a part of my life and I have to have one'.

"Kids have to know a two-letter word: no."

Nelson Mail readers have been generously donating toys and putting them under its Christmas tree.

They include games, sports equipment, teddies and a wooden scooter, bike and helmet.

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Anyone able to donate to the non-perishable food treats, other than soft drinks or chocolates, for the Christmas hampers, can bring them to the Nelson Mail office in Bridge St or to the Salvation Army in Rutherford St by Friday.

They will be delivered on Saturday.

- The Nelson Mail

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