Once again Age Concern and their army of volunteers are collecting gifts for the elderly in a large version of Secret Santa.
"We did it last year," says Age Concern Whanganui manager Michelle Malcolm. "It was our Christmas initiative. So we put it out to the community and said any donation of any sort would be greatly appreciated.
"We started about the middle of November ... and we were overwhelmed with the response. We had little kids coming in who had gone to shop with their pocket money and bought stuff; one little girl came in with some soap, a flannel and some chocolates in a little bag."
Michelle says there are plenty of elderly on their own at Christmas and this year, with families possibly separated by the pandemic, is going to be worse.
After last year's response, Age Concern is now making this an annual event.
"We were expecting to be able to deliver maybe 20 parcels, but the response was phenomenal. We had a Secret Santa bag in the foyer which we were emptying every day, and people were coming in with boxes.
"We got donations from a local pharmacy (Pharmacy 145 on Victoria) ... which made us very humbled, and we had organisations that were collecting as well. Aramoho Health brought in gifts.
"Volunteers came in to help wrap so there were six or eight of us spending a whole day wrapping. We put them into piles of food, toiletries and 'other', and we tried to include one of each in each parcel. We delivered 206 parcels. We had more than 600 items donated."
Recipients were not expecting the gifts and when they asked the deliverer how they knew they would be alone at Christmas, the response was: "Santa told us."
"It rained the day we delivered so we looked like drowned rats, but that was okay," says Michelle. "We also had three schools that did Christmas cards for us. We want to do that again this year. We just couldn't thank the community enough for their support.
"This year we will be doing parcels solely for men, parcels solely for women and we will do unisex parcels as well."
Michelle knows how giving Whanganui people are.
"Through Covid we had donations of eggs, firewood, pine cones and so many offers of help it was incredible."
To get gifts to Age Concern either drop them in the office at 164 St Hill St or give them a ring on 345 1799 and someone will come and pick them up.
"Please don't wrap them because we will be putting them into categories," says Michelle. "Just make sure they are appropriate."
Any gift would be greatly appreciated.
Age Concern will be collecting gifts until December 10.