Cheer of giving kicks off

By Roger Moroney

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Christmas Cheer co-ordinators Renske Speekenbrink (left) and Jo Reyngoud get into the festive spirit of it all.  Photo/Warren Buckland
Christmas Cheer co-ordinators Renske Speekenbrink (left) and Jo Reyngoud get into the festive spirit of it all. Photo/Warren Buckland

For more than 3000 people across Napier and Hastings Christmas will be a brighter time than it would have been had the community around them not stepped up to make it that way.

Since it kicked off in a modest way about 30 years ago, the Christmas Cheer Appeal has provided great parcels of gifts and food for those less fortunate in the community.

The appeal is underway again from today and will run through to December 21.

It was started on a small scale by The Daily Telegraph newspaper and grew through the years, and was accordingly picked up and continued by Hawke's Bay Today, and today it is also driven by the "cheer" leaders at Napier City Council, Renske Speekenbrink and Jo Reyngoud, who is the Hastings District appeal co-ordinator.

It is also embraced by great teams of volunteers in both cities who give their time to sort and pack the around 850 parcels which will be prepared.

Between both cities more than 60 social and community agencies have worked to provide the list of recipients, and as Jo found out after last year's appeal the community's caring means a lot.

She had many "thank you so much" responses from people, with one saying the Christmas parcel of goodies meant they could pay bills which would have otherwise taken the money they would have liked to spend on some special festive treats for the children.

"It means so much to them ... I was almost in tears", she said.

They would have been tears of joy.

For Renske, this is her first year as the council's cheer co-ordinator. She said she was delighted to be part of such a strong community spirit when it came to assisting those in need at a special time of the year.

"There is such a great feeling about it all."

The cash donations received help pay for the large amount of food items which are bought for the parcels, while the gifts will create the smiles for all ages - toddlers to senior citizens.

Gifts for toddlers through to young boys and girls, teenagers, young men and women and people in their senior years will be needed, and family gifts like outdoor games and activities were always sought as they brought everyone together to enjoy.

Aside from grants through foundations and trusts last year, members of the public, as well as schools, businesses and service groups, donated just over $14,500 to the Christmas Cheer Appeal, ensuring another successful event, and thousands of festive season smiles for those who would have otherwise struggled to provide something special for their families.

A long-time annual appeal contributor is the Duart Dinner Club, and as they did last year they have already called in to the Hastings office of Hawke's Bay Today with two great boxes of gifts they collected.

Real Christmas spirit

The drop-off points in Napier are Hawke's Bay Today at NZME House in Dickens St, Toy World, the Napier and Taradale libraries, Taradale Paper Plus, Curves Gym in Gloucester St, Greenmeadows, Mitre 10 Mega, Prebensen Drive and Alexander's Construction in Ossian St, Ahuriri.

In Hastings goodies can be dropped off at Hawke's Bay Today in Heretaunga St East, Mitre 10 Mega in Karamu Rd Nth and the Hastings, Havelock North and Flaxmere Libraries.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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