The St Vincent de Paul Society in Wellington is partnering with the Wellington City Mission to put up a Christmas toyshop for their clients this year.
SVdP communications and marketing development manager Millie Lambess said they are thankful to be able to work with the city mission, which has a bigger reach in terms of resources and donations.
“This year, with restraints on resources, we were a bit worried about how we will be able to run the toyshop again,” she said.
Teaming up with the city mission means “we will be able to support both their clients and our current base clients as well”.
Ms Lambess said that, with Christmas coming up, they were worried about the additional stress on their already stretched resources.
“This time around, compared to last year’s lockdown, people are much more tired, and just that kind of build up for years now of uncertainty has definitely put a lot of strain on social services in general,” she said.
“Our foodbank, in particular, which is usually the first point of contact for people, . . . is still operating at a much higher capacity than before the lockdown or before the pandemic started.”
She said that, after the first lockdown last year, the demand for food rose by 30 to 40 per cent and hasn’t dropped since.
“Everything [has been] maintained at a higher level, even as lockdown sort of came and went. The long-term effects on mental health, the stress on families and on a lot more older people, retirees . . . is just exacerbated by the cost of living. It’s just pushed people out. People don’t have that safety net as they once had,” she explained.
Ms Lambess said the cost of living is huge, and there is not a lot of cash lying around, especially during the holidays.
“Gifts are a luxury for many, so we’re really happy we are able to do the toyshop again,” she said.
She noted, however, that this year they are forced to limit the access to the toyshop to their clients only, as well as those of the city mission.
Because of the financial strain that Covid causes, as well as the closure of churches and parishes due to Covid protocols, there had been a drop in direct donations, she said.
“This could mean that they (donors) don’t have that capacity anymore, which we totally understand because I think it has hit all areas of society in the past year. We’ve definitely seen a reduction,” she added.
Clients are asked to book an appointment. There will be no walk-ins.
“We have very strict adherence to Covid protocols to ensure it is a warm, safe space, because a lot of the people we will be working with will be classed in those vulnerable groups in society. We are making sure people can feel they can trust the space when they come in,” she said.
The toyshop will run from December 8 to December 23.
Ms Lambess said donations can be dropped off to their Welfare and Support office at 207 Riddiford Street.
“Alternatively, if people can make a cash donation, just make sure they say ‘Christmas Shop’. That’s quite good, because it means half-way through, if we’ve got cash donations and we see that we don’t have enough teen-age gifts, we can use those cash donations to purchase gifts appropriate for the age group,” she said.
Ms Lambess also said food is “always something that is needed”.
“We’ll be working with [the] city mission again. We’re working on our foodbank, but they will also be supporting our families with Christmas day hampers,” she said.
Ms Lambess said the idea of the toyshop is not only for the children to get gifts, but for parents and caregivers to have “the feeling that they are able to give the gifts” to their children.
“The good thing about the toyshop is, it’s a fun thing. With so much doom and gloom going on, this is a nice way to end the year: giving the experience to the clients of dignity and choice over what gift to give to their children.”
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