It’s been a tough year for Auckland mum, Liz.
She left a violent relationship and is raising her two kids - with a third due just before Christmas - with no family support and while working full time.
Rent takes a big chunk of her wage and her grocery bill, like everyone’s, has only gotten more expensive.
Throw in other expenses, like unexpected car bills, and it was looking like the space under the Christmas tree was going to be bare.
In fact, there wasn’t even going to be a Christmas tree as all the bills kept “pushing Christmas further and further away”, she said.
Instead, this week the expectant mum went to The Christmas Joy Store and picked out six free gifts for her two children, and two for the baby.
“I had tears the whole way around, and when I got home too. They make you feel so special, they make you feel like you really do deserve it … there’s so much dignity.
“I’m always going to be so grateful for this help.”
The store, run by charity The Kindness Collective, allows parents and caregivers going through tough times the opportunity to choose free gifts for their child.
The initiative, which began with a physical store in Auckland last year and has expanded to include families in need in Hamilton, Tauranga, Taupō, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, will this year provide toys and treats for at least 10,000 Kiwi kids - up from 6000 last year, store founder Sarah Page said.
The store was “more beautiful, and much bigger and better”, but so was the need. Thousands of kids are on the waiting list for a referral to the store, with cash or physical donations from all - whether individuals and businesses - always needed, Page said.
“There’s always more [need than capacity]. It’s been a tough year. People can’t even afford a block of cheese anymore, so how are they supposed to get to the doctor, buy school supplies? Things like Christmas are just off the cards.
“A lot of the parents [referred to the store] have two jobs, and they just can’t do it. But because they want to provide for their kids, they’re going into debt [to buy presents].”
The store works by allowing parents to choose gifts for their children, with three of varying values allowed per child, along with treats, from Monday until Christmas Eve, Page said.
“Everybody deserves the dignity of choice … we know the list of those in need is very long, so we’re doing everything we can to get as many toys as possible to keep the shelves stocked.
“We’re grateful for every single donation.”
At Wesley Primary School, all of the school’s 120 families have been invited to the store.
Parents at the Mt Roskill school, which had a 1B designation for socio-economic deprivation under the former decile system, always made sure their kids were “blessed with something”, principal Lou Reddy said.
“Our families work so hard, but this is just next level. And it gives our families a sense of community … that we believe in them, and that they’re deserving.”
How to donate:
- Donate online at www.kindness.co.nz/donate Donations are used to buy toys, food and other essentials at discounted rates through the collective’s suppliers.
- Donate toys. These can be delivered to any Armstrong’s dealership in New Zealand, or brought directly to the Joy Store in Balmoral, Auckland. Email email@example.com for the address.
- Host a Giving Tree – Have your business, school or club host a Giving Tree and collect toys.