A Northland charity is sending out an SOS to save Christmas for 400 needy families.
Every year Bald Angels prepares hundreds of food and gift packs, which are distributed to families in the Mid and Far North in the week before Christmas by front-line agencies such as police, iwi health providers and women's refuge.
Last year the charity made 400 whānau packs bulging with fresh fruit, vegetables and meat, groceries and children's gifts.
This year, however, the Bald Angels are struggling to raise the money needed for the Christmas packs because of the effects of the Covid pandemic.
The same pain is being felt by many Northland charities that rely on donations, sponsorship, op shops and other fundraising efforts.
Bald Angels founder Therese Wickbom said the need was also greater this year, which she put down to the increasing cost of food and families returning to Northland after losing jobs in the main centres.
The charity had also dipped into funds earmarked for Christmas packs to pay for emergency food parcels during the August lockdown, she said.
Recent level 3 restrictions in Northland also meant the Bald Angels' Christmas appeal, which was normally launched in September, had got off to a later start than usual, and many regular donors were less able to give.
''We're concerned about the ability of our donors to support us as they have in the past because Covid is affecting everyone. People are cautious and feeling like they need to focus on their own whānau first.''
Wickbom estimated the shortfall amounted to about $60,000.
She had applied to an MSD community fund for help but had yet to get a response.
The Kerikeri cafe owner said the packs didn't just brighten up Christmas for Northland families, they also reduced stress on caregivers struggling to provide something special for their families at what was supposed to be a festive time of year.
They also helped build relationships between families and frontline agencies such as police.
''The feedback we get from police when they turn up with a Christmas pack is that they can talk to the whānau and give them information about how to reach out for help.
There's no data to prove that family harm is avoided through this, but anecdotally we're told having someone turn up with gifts and food at that time of year does a lot to relieve stress,'' she said.
''We're all feeling the pain at the moment, we understand these are tough times for everyone — but if your whānau or workplace is able to help a family in need this Christmas, it will make a huge difference.''
Kāeo-based Te Rūnanga o Whaingaroa is one of the agencies that distributes whānau packs prepared by Bald Angels.
Whānau ora kaiarahi Doll King said seeing the excitement on children's faces when she arrived with gifts and kai was priceless.
''You can't wipe the smiles off their faces. It's also the sense of relief because things are tight at this time of year. It's a wonderful thing to be able to help whanau and lessen the load.''
The Bald Angels ''put heart and soul into their mahi'', King said.
Nor are they the only Northland charity hit by the Covid pandemic.
Hospice Mid-Northland, which provides free end-of-life care throughout the Mid North, has lost tens of thousands of dollars in income because of the closure of its op shops during level 3.
General manager Belinda Watkins said the organisation's retail network normally brought in 48 per cent of its funding.
That included the main op shop in central Kerikeri, a furniture shop and Kowhai Corner on Kerikeri Rd, and an op shop in Kawakawa.
The closure of all four shops in the latest lockdown had cost the organisation an estimated $40,000-$45,000.
''It's huge,'' Watkins said.
Another 42 per cent of Hospice Mid-Northland's income came from the Government and the remaining 10 per cent came from fundraisers such as the popular Battle of the Ballroom.
Those events, however, had also been scuppered by Covid.
The Government's wage subsidy and resurgence payments, if granted, would claw back some of the losses but not all.
''It has certainly depleted our income, and it's happened twice in the past three months. We're totally committed to keeping the service going but it does have an impact.''
One way people could help was to spend at Hospice, and other charity op shops, which reopened on Thursday with level 2 rules around masks and distancing.
• If you want to help the Bald Angels you can sponsor a kai box at the Angel Store (www.baldangels.org.nz/shop) or leave children's gifts in the collection box at Cafe Cinema in Kerikeri. Other collection boxes will placed at Kerikeri schools and gyms, Procter Library and other locations in Kerikeri and Waipapa. Businesses can also opt to sponsor kai boxes on behalf of staff or clients instead of buying them Christmas gifts. Each whānau pack includes six kai boxes as well as children's presents and hygiene items. You can also donate to the Bald Angels' Givealittle page at givealittle.co.nz/cause/help-bald-angels-get-kai-boxes-to-kiwi-kids.