Some Whangarei parents will be dreading the appearance of Christmas displays and decorations in shops this month, knowing that providing a proper celebration will be near-impossible.

The Salvation Army is calling on businesses and others who may be able to help such families by "adopting" those already under pressure and providing them with the meal and gifts that many take for granted come December 25.

The Adopt A Family For Christmas programme has run on a tiny scale in past years, when the Sallies linked up Whangarei District Council departments with families in need.

Community ministries manager Trevor McLean said the Sallies now wanted to extend this.

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"The spend is really up to the donors but we've found they get so involved and there's an outpouring of gifts and food for these families," Mr McLean said.

Donors - which could be a group of workmates, a family or individual - would be supplied with the ages and genders of their assigned family and would be asked to provide gifts for the children and ingredients for a Christmas meal.

The recipients would remain anonymous.

"Our hope is at least 100 families [benefiting from] the scheme," Mr McLean said. "We're really aiming it at business but we know there are some very generous families out there, too."

Salvation Army social worker Teneille Johnson said she received a Sallies Christmas hamper as a child and still feels thankful for it.

"If we didn't receive that parcel, my mum was a single mum, and it isn't like Christmas," she said.

"At this time of year especially you've got tamariki who are taking on the stress of what their parents are going through," Ms Johnson said. "Then you've got the other end where a lot of whanau are getting into debt because they want to give their children the best."

The Adopt A Family programme would join the line-up of help the Salvation Army offered at Christmas, including the 200 hampers it gave away and the community meal it put on Christmas night.

For those who unable to commit to the full Adopt A Family scheme, the Sallies were also looking to top up their food bank ahead of the Christmas rush.

Seven Northland schools have signed up to collect canned food for the food bank under the Wattie's Cans for Good campaign. The collection will take place from November 14-18, with all the cans going to local food banks and the number collected matched by Wattie's.

Participating Northland primary schools are Raurimu Ave, Hurupaki, Whangarei Heads, Otaika Valley and Manaia View, all in Whangarei, and Maromaku and Kaitaia.

If your family, group or workplace would like to adopt a family for Christmas call Leah Perkins at Whangarei Salvation Army on 09 438 8335. Donations must be received by December 16, perishables can be frozen or refrigerated.