Those working at the frontline of Whanganui's charitable agencies say demand for support in the lead-up to Christmas has outstripped that of anything seen before.
Hours out from the big day, families are continuing to request the help of City Mission Whanganui and Whanganui's Koha Shed to ensure there will be enough food on the table.
City Mission manager Karrie Brown said the last few weeks had been different for the organisation, after the cancellation of its annual Christmas lunch due to the threat of Covid-19.
"This year, instead of the lunch, we've been putting together 200 Christmas parcels for families who are in need of some extra help, on top of our usual food parcels," Brown said.
"It's been pretty hectic in here putting those together. Those 200 parcels will feed around 500 people, which is actually more than we do at the lunch."
On hand to help the mission were the countless volunteers working hours to ensure food gets out the door. Among them were a married couple in their 80s, who have volunteered one shift a week all year.
"Our volunteers are really what keeps us going - we've had huge support from people from all walks of life this year," Brown said.
The mission's calculations showed that so far in 2021 the group had given out enough food to feed 6800 people this year, she said. That was more than last year's total of 6247 people, with a week still left to go in the year.
"It's been a big year, so we're all looking forward to a break on Christmas Day."
Property Brokers Whanganui manager Ritesh Verma this week presented a cheque for $1280 to the City Mission.
It followed on from the agency's second annual Pack the Bus initiative last month which collected food and toys for City Mission and Birthright Whanganui. Verma was amazed by the support from local schools and businesses, and estimated more than $10,000 worth of toys and $5000 of food were donated.
Meanwhile, at Whanganui East's Koha Shed, manager Sherron Sunnex was busy collecting donations and packing up food parcels to give to families in need.
"In the last few days, we've probably been dealing with over 200 families. People are finding that their money is not going anywhere near what it did last year. The cost of living has risen a lot," Sunnex said.
As part of the organisation's festive support, a Christmas party was held last week, with families enjoying a Christmas meal and presents for the children.
"That was really special for us - it's great to have that day where people can come together without having to worry."
But even after the Christmas party, there was still significant demand for things like food parcels and even gifts, Sunnex said.
"We're getting lots of donations, but it's just not keeping up with demand. We've had to go and do a big shop. I'm going to have to do a big amount of fundraising next year."