Napier woman Marilyn Corbishley has met a lot of people through the years and many of them she knows only by their first name and some she only bumps into once a year.

This time of the year.

The time of the year when the volunteers all gather to pack the nearly 500 Hawke's Bay Christmas Cheer parcels which social agencies and church groups will distribute to less fortunate individuals and families across the Napier community.

She is the longest member of the happy band.


"I'm not absolutely sure to be honest," she said with a smile when asked how long she has been part of the sorting and packing crew.

"It would be 20-21 years plus."

In the early days of the appeal the food and gift parcels were a lot more modest than they are today and were sorted and delivered out of the Community Rooms in Clive Square.

"They got a roll of ham and a bottle of fruit juice."

In those first couple of years she did the deliveries, but then moved on to the sorting and packing side, which grew through the years.

She said the late Val Poszeluk, who coordinated the Napier side of the appeal for "many years" was tireless and took a real old-school approach using notepads to record all the hundreds of necessary details.

The growth of the appeal saw the following coordinator, Jill Affleck, put all the records and lists on to a computer programme.

Mrs Corbishley said she heard about the cheer appeal from someone who had worked as a volunteer and decided to join the team.

She has also done volunteer work at the Cranford Hospice shop in Hastings, Taradale Cake and Craft and "a few school things".

When her daughters were teenagers she "roped" them in to help for a few years, as well as a nephew when he was 12.

"He's 21 and living in Australia now. He called the other day and asked 'have you done the Christmas Cheer again yet?"'

She said she would carry on as long as her legs continued to hold her up, and got a real joy out of knowing that the appeal helped so many people "at a special time of the year".

Initial packing started getting under way yesterday with about 25 volunteers getting stuck in.

The Ministry of Education dropped off a large box of about 40 assorted gifts and toys, while the Carers New Zealand Napier Team donated a large box of assorted foodstuffs they collected up.

The cash fund also got a $200 boost from the Napier Cosmopolitan Club Centennial Charitable Trust. The appeal wraps up tomorrow.