When a blaze gutted a New Plymouth home last month, Making Ends Meet got 62 phone calls from people wanting to help.
The Blagdon family, left with next to nothing, were asked what they needed and were provided with clothes and linen - much of which came from some of those 62 phone calls.
"We'll do furniture for them too if they find somewhere new to live," Making Ends Meet organiser Katrina Franzen-Robinson said.
Making Ends Meet has helped many Taranaki families and individuals in similar situations during the past three years.
Ms Franzen-Robinson and others around the region collect donations of clothes, furniture and household items and give them to people in need.
It can be as little as a pair of socks or as much as furnishing an entire house.
The organisation started when founder Masie Tunnicliff saw a young boy walking to school with no shoes on.
In a fit of worry, she grabbed a pair of her grandson's gumboots he wasn't using and gave them to the boy.
"He just about cried because he couldn't believe someone had given him something."
What the organisation does now isn't much different - they identify need and then go about fulfilling it.
Ms Franzen-Robinson, who took over the initiative from Ms Tunnicliff a fortnight ago, also works with social agencies and organisations and keeps a close eye on the Taranaki Daily News to determine where there may be people who might benefit from the charity's work.
She then has to try to track them down, which can sometimes be difficult if people, like those in the Blagdon fire, have had even their cellphones destroyed or are staying with friends or relatives.
"It can take a bit of detective work but the fire station has my number too, and we usually get there one way or another."
And when Making Ends Meet arrives with a trailerful of new beginnings, they're often greeted with tears of appreciation and relief.
"They just cry. Sometimes we cry too. The family from the Kaponga fire cried. And then they tried to pay us for the stuff, and the petrol."
But they don't just help people who have had their lives reduced to ashes - they also help those who just have an obvious need, whether that be cold feet, a hungry tummy or a houseload of furniture.
"We often help people who have had to escape from bad or abusive relationships and need to start again," Ms Tunnicliff said.
She said growing up in a family of eight children, she learnt to appreciate what she had.
Ms Tunnicliff, a beneficiary, said she knows how hard it can be to have nothing.
But Making Ends Meet is also aware of the difference between those who have a genuine need and those who are just looking to get something for free.
"Some people try and take advantage of us; that does happen. We had a lady who came and picked up a whole rubbish bag full of clothes and the next day they were up on the New Plymouth Buy and Sell Facebook page," Ms Franzen-Robinson, who runs the nonprofit organisation out of her New Plymouth home, said.
Stacks of wine boxes and plastic drawers filled with clothes, linen and kitchenware line her hallway.
"Everything's folded and packed and labelled. The clothes are organised by age and size, so if someone needs something I can just pull it out."
Her garage has been turned into a storage shed for the whiteware, furniture and larger items that come in and go out by the trailer-load; piles of tables and chairs and mattresses, a chest freezer and a box of coathangers are mixed in with slightly less useful items - a tasteful nude painting, a kids' swimming pool and a collection of push bikes.
Ms Tunnicliff now has a new home, too.
A fortnight ago she moved to Tokoroa where she has already set up a new branch of Making Ends Meet and has begun helping people.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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