A huge volunteer effort is under way to make sure hundreds of struggling Northland families have food on the table and presents for the kids this Christmas.
Every year Kerikeri-based Bald Angels holds a toy drive and collects a mountain of food — some donated, some bought with the charity's own funds — which is then shared out among about 20 partner organisations such as police, Women's Refuge and iwi health and social services.
Those organisations then make sure the gifts are delivered where they are needed most.
Bald Angels founder Therese Wickbom said the results of this year's drive would be enough to make food packs for more than 200 families and presents for 500-plus children in the Mid and Far North.
About 1700 individual toys were donated, wrapped and distributed, well up on last year's 1200.
The food included fresh fruit and vegetables and 180 hams donated by the Waipapa Lions Club. Companies supplied food at heavily discounted rates and individuals made large cash donations.
Wickbom said the Bald Angels did not choose which families received support. Its partners, who were working at the coalface of Northland child poverty, knew best who needed help.
Despite the huge response the charity still couldn't help everyone, she said.
''Christmas can be a particularly stressful time of year for families,'' Wickbom said.
''We agree Christmas is not about gifts but if your family is struggling and our partners — particularly police — turn up with gifts, that can build relationships and help address stress-related violence and crime. So it has the potential to change lives.''
''It's not about the gifts, it's about bringing some peace and joy to families.''
Wickbom said she had been amazed by the community's generosity. Children as young as 3 had donated presents.
''I can't thank people enough,'' she said.
Among those collecting presents from the Bald Angels' distribution centre on Thursday was Ruby Korewha, of Ngāpuhi Iwi Social Services. Her organisation had made up gift and food hampers for 91 families earlier in the week; the Bald Angels initiative would allow it to help another 14 families from Kawakawa to the Hokianga.
''It's an awesome thing the Bald Angels are doing,'' she said.