How Families Can Give Back at Christmas Time

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There is no doubt that 2020 has been challenging as COVID-19 has upended our lives. It’s been an ordeal as we’ve faced lockdowns, school shutdowns, working from home and lots of social distancing! There are many who are doing it tough as they’ve lost jobs or income, been separated from friends and family and have faced stress and anxiety due to the ongoing pandemic.

This holiday season, let’s think of others and practice the true gift of giving. Donating goods or volunteering your time is a great way for your family to give to those in need in our local community and spread holiday cheer in 2020.

No matter how old your kids are, there are lots of different ways to give and contribute to your local community. You can create a bag for Share the Dignity or Soul Cafe, donate an unwrapped toy or donate online. Get them involved in choosing items to donate to someone in need. Show them how a small act of giving goes a long way and help those less fortunate around Newcastle, Lake Macquarie & the Hunter.

Create a bag for Share the Dignity

Donate a bag as part of the Share The Dignity’s It’s In The Bag campaign. Fill up a bag (new or barely used) with a list of essentials that they list on their website. Plus, you can add in extras to make someone feel special such as makeup, accessories, moisturiser, face masks, hand cream, handmade items, etc. There are three different types of bags you can make: Adult bag, Teen bag or Mum and Bub bag. Once you’ve packed your bag, drop it off at your local Bunnings between November 20 and 29. You can find the collection box at the front of Bunnings stores. 

Your donation will go directly to someone living in crisis and in need of support during what could be one of the most difficult times in their life. Share the Dignity support people from all different backgrounds, those fleeing domestic violence, experiencing homelessness and those doing it tough. 

Donate gently used toys and books to Brilliant Star Children’s Activities

Brilliant Star Children’s Activities are inviting Fletcher children to show their love and generosity by donating their toys and books to the children and families of those less fortunate who have suffered from domestic violence and homelessness. They ask that all donations are clean and in good order. Collection is at Fletcher Community Centre on 20 November from 5pm to 7pm.

Join in the fun of the Toy Run

This annual event aims to unite the community and help bring joy into the lives of countless families in the Hunter Region through fundraising efforts benefiting the Salvos’ local Christmas Appeal. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, The Bikers for Kids Newcastle Toy Run ride event has been cancelled for 2020.

However you can still make toy donations. Donate a new unwrapped toy to the following locations:

  • Brisan Motorcycles Newcastle
  • Cafe Inu in Carrington
  • Coles Charlestown
  • Coles Edgeworth
  • Coles Fletcher
  • Coles Wallsend
  • Coles Waratah
  • Ian Rose Automotive Services in Rutherford
  • Ka-fey Cafe Hunter Street Mall, Newcastle
  • Kip McGrath Tutoring Hub in Westfield Kotara
  • ONeills Mobile Coffee Group in Cameron Park
  • The Shake n Bean Cafe in Swansea
  • Wangi RSL
  • Watersedge Accounting Group in Toronto

The cut off for suburban toy donations is 6 December 2020 to allow for distribution to those in need. *If you can, buy a gift for an older child as there’s always a shortage for this age group.

Mayor’s Christmas Appeal

Lake Macquarie Mayor Cr Kay Fraser invites the Lake Macquarie community to share the joy of Christmas with those less fortunate by donating to the Mayor’s Christmas Appeal for 2020.

The Mayor’s Christmas Appeal is conducted in conjunction with the Samaritans. All donations, whether it is money, vouchers or toys and gifts will relieve some of the pressure on families and individuals who are facing hardship or financial challenges this Christmas. To keep with COVID-Safe measures, Samaritans are encouraging donations of gift cards or money of the same value as what would usually be spent on toys or food donations. Donations can be made online.

If you prefer to donate physical gifts, you can still drop them off. Unwrapped toys, gifts or other donations can be dropped off at Council’s Administrative Centre in Speers Point or at any of the Lake Mac Libraries until Monday 7 December.

Donate a gift to The Wishing Tree at Kmart

The Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal is Australia’s largest and longest running Christmas gift Appeal. Thanks to the incredible generosity of the Australian community, the Appeal has raised more than 8 million gifts that have been distributed to those in need by The Salvation Army.

The Wishing Tree Appeal runs from 19 October to 24 December 2020. With your gifts in tow, visit your local Kmart store and place your gift in one of the gift boxes under the Wishing Tree in any Kmart store. Gifts do not need to be purchased at Kmart, nor do they need to be wrapped. The Appeal is unable to accept used or second-hand gifts. This year to be extra safe during the pandemic your gift will be sorted into age categories for you. There is no need to fill in a gift tag like in previous years.

Wish list items include:

  • Gift cards
  • Books
  • Sporting equipment
  • Back to school supplies
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Headphones
  • Educational toys
  • Toiletries
  • Musical instruments

You can also make a monetary contribution by scanning a Wishing Tree tag at any Kmart store register or do an online donation via scanning a QR code in store.

Local participating stores include Glendale, Kotara, Maitland, Salamander Bay and Waratah.

Donate a hamper to Soul Café 2020 Christmas Appeal

Soul Café helps to support some of Newcastle’s most vulnerable people. They offer numerous services to help the homeless and disadvantaged people within our community. This holiday season, you can assist Soul Café in two ways.

You can donate to the Soul Café. They estimate that they will have provided 40,000+ meals to vulnerable people in Newcastle and that is only possible because of the generous financial support of the Newcastle community. They rely on community funding, not government funding and a donation of $2 or more is tax deductible.

You can also create a Soul Café Holiday Hamper. Download the Soul Café Holiday Hamper shopping list here and buy the items on the shopping list. Items include cans of food, toiletries and wrapped lollies. Put them in a reusable shopping bag and drop them into Soul Café before December 17 and they will give them out to their vulnerable guests through the Christmas holiday period. Hampers can be delivered to Soul Café from Monday to Thursday between 8am and 2pm.

Buy a wish card from The Salvation Army

Buy a Wish gift card from the Salvation Army this Christmas. You can choose from a range of ideas to help those less fortunate. Through your monetary donation, the Salvation Army can provide assistance to vulnerable people in our community. 

This includes:

  • A baby hamper for a new mum
  • A family day out for a struggling family
  • Christmas lunch hamper for a family
  • School Day breakfast
  • Street pack for a homeless person

Volunteer for Christmas Day Lunch in the Park with The Samaritans

No plans for Christmas Day? Why not be a volunteer for Samaritans for a community Christmas Lunch. Due to restrictions with COVID-19, The Samaritans are unable to host a Christmas Day lunch at Wyong on the Central Coast this year. Instead, they will be hosting smaller, COVID-adapted event in Newcastle and Singleton. Volunteer numbers will be very limited due to local restrictions, however guests on the day can pick up a take away meal. To keep volunteers and community safe, this year their Christmas lunches will be a little different. They are offering an express lunch and gift pickup on Christmas Day.

To ensure they have enough toys and items in their Christmas Assistance Centre and Christmas lunches local businesses collect gifts for Samaritans. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, their Giving Tree appeal cannot go ahead as normal. Usually workplaces and businesses set up Christmas Trees on their premises and collect gifts, toys, food and vouchers for Samaritans. Instead, this year you will be able to donate a gift online!

Collect toys and books for The Smith Family

This Christmas, there are kids who may not receive a Christmas gift. The Smith Family has launched a Toy & Book appeal and aims to deliver over 75,000 new toys and 50,000 new books to children in need around Australia. You can host a Toy & Book Gift Collection at work, a club, school or in your community group.

Organise food hampers for OzHarvest

There are many families who need food from charity agencies. This Christmas, offices, schools, community groups or places of worship can help meet this need by running a food drive to collect non-perishable food items to be donated to OzHarvest.

Recommended items for hampers include:

  • Pasta / rice / whole-grain cereal
  • Canned vegetables (ring pull)
  • Canned fruit (ring pull)
  • Canned protein foods like tuna, salmon, chicken, beef stews (ring pull)
  • Long-life milk product
  • Biscuits (sweet and savoury)
  • Long-life juice/poppers
  • Dried fruits
  • Tea/coffee
  • Breakfast cereal

Recycle cans and bottles in exchange for a donation

You can make a donation to a charity through the NSW Return and Earn container deposit scheme. The scheme gives people 10c for every glass, plastic and aluminium drinking container returned.

The reverse vending machine has options to donate to not-for-profit and community organisations such as charities, sports clubs and schools. The recipients are rotated every three months.

The current donation partner is Bottles Can Change Lives, a recycling appeal by Return and Earn and TOMRA. Each donated can or bottle raises 10c for either OzHarvest, Beyond Blue or The Salvation Army. If you prefer another charity, you can take the money and donate to your family’s favourite charity instead.

Volunteer at a community garden

Community gardens exist to produce local seasonal produce and create a sense of community. Get your kids involved in your local community garden. They’re a great way to learn how things grow and to meet your neighbours through working bees. There’s a number of community gardens in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie in which to get involved.

Help someone in your neighbourhood

You don’t have to go far to give back. See if you can help a family member or neighbour. Do you have an elderly neighbour who needs their lawns mowed, some help with groceries or a home-cooked meal? You can get your kids involved and demonstrate to them how you can help.

Do you have other tips to give back this holiday season? Email us.


Want more ideas for Christmas fun including family-friendly Christmas events in Newcastle and the Hunter? Visit the Newy with Kids Guide to Christmas

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