For 30 years the people of Napier and Hastings have been generously giving - to the people of Napier and Hastings.

The annual Hawke's Bay Today Christmas Cheer Appeal started off modestly in Napier with a local bank appealing for donations of toys and gifts that could be passed on to less fortunate folk at a special time of the year.

The idea was picked up by the newspaper at that time, The Daily Telegraph, and it grew year by year.

The Hawke's Bay Herald Tribune in Hastings also began running a cheer appeal every Christmas and when the two companies merged into Hawke's Bay Today in 1999 the appeal continued to be embraced by the new paper.

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It has continued through the years to become a real community effort as businesses, schools, clubs and individuals do their bit to make Christmas a happier time for those finding it tough.

East Coast Family Works steer the appeal from the Hastings side, in association with the Hastings District Council, while the Napier City Council's Community Development crew looks after the Napier side.

In the first years of the appeal, something like 120 boxes of goodies would be made up from the donations of food and gifts and toys.

Now with the generosity of the community and tougher economic times, which has seen a rise in the need for a bit of festive season support, about 1000 parcels are prepared by the volunteer crews in Napier and Hastings.

Jo Reyngoud from East Coast Family Works said there was an annual solid core of about a dozen volunteers who happily gave their time to help put the parcels together.

"People from some of the aid agencies we work with also come in, and we always get a couple of district councillors popping in to do their bit."

Napier City Council Community Services' Michele Glogoski said a team of about 30 gathered for the Napier pack-ups.

"Many of them have been doing it for 10 or more years."

This year's appeal has kicked off in the strongest possible way with the crucial cash account collectively already well over the $20,000 mark thanks to early grants and business mail-out requests coming in over the past fortnight. And for the third year running, Mitre 10 Mega has stepped in to add to the early boost withits Ladies' Night raising more than $500 (with more collection tins still to be counted) and about 80 toys donated.

"It was fantastic night," the company's marketing managing, Kerry Meehan, said. Annual supporters The Duart Dinner Club has put together a couple of big boxes of children's gifts, while the Hawke's Bay Embroiderers' Guild also donated a box of gifts.

It's a great start to a great community appeal.

People wanting to donate to the 2013 Hawke's Bay Christmas Cheer Appeal can do so at the Napier and Hastings offices of Hawke's Bay Today, the Hastings and Havelock North public libraries, the Flaxmere Baptist Op Shop, Paper Plus in Taradale, Classic Hits Napier, Toyworld and Mitre 10 Mega in Hastings and Napier. Three cash donation accounts will be run so donors can nominate for their money to go to Napier, Hastings or the joint account.

Toys and books for children, and gifts for teenagers and adults are sought for gift parcels, alongside non-perishable foodstuffs. The appeal is running until December 20.