It might be the second week of the new year, but Christmas cards destined for elderly residents at a West Auckland rest home have only just arrived.
Up to 20 festive cards and letters due to reach the CHT St Margaret's Hospital and Rest Home, in Te Atatū Peninsula, were retrieved this week after a member of the public found them ripped open and dumped at a nearby park.
Local woman Julie Wilkes was at a park on Vinograd Drive - about a three-minute's drive from the rest home - having lunch with her two young children when she spotted what she thought was bits of rubbish.
"It was quite windy...and there was some rubbish blowing around the park, so I went to pick it up," she said.
"It was then I discovered it was actually empty envelopes. As I collected more, I found some handwritten letters and then saw all the Christmas cards ripped open and strewn around.
"When I checked the envelope addresses and saw they were all addressed to St Margaret's...I put two and two together."
She guessed whoever had dumped the Christmas mail had stolen it from St Margaret's mailbox in a bid to try and find money or gift cards sent to elderly residents.
She tried not to read any of the cards, but as she opened them, she read the odd message: "Dear...merry Christmas. Miss you."
"The thought that some thoughtless person or persons who, for their own selfish reasons, made the choice to steal from our most vulnerable made me feel both angry and sad," she said.
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"That's what made me the saddest, really - that someone took time to send their thoughts to a loved one in a card that potentially contained money or gift cards."
Up to 20 cards and letters were returned to the hospital and rest home, which also offers dementia care, geriatric and medical services on site.
It looks after 87 residents aged predominantly aged in their 70s and 80s, up to those aged in their 90s.
Their oldest resident is a 103-year-old woman.
Manager Tina Lock said they were thrilled to get the Christmas mail back as the assumption had been made earlier that thieves had targeted their mailbox - due to the lack of Christmas cards they had received.
It was very much a highlight for residents to get any kind of mail from friends and loved ones - particularly over the Christmas period, she said.
Referring to Wilkes, who found and returned the cards, Lock said: "It just shows that most people are good people."