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Big job to ensure no one misses out

Masterton Foodbank volunteers, Linda Bouton, left, and Adrienne McClure with donated gifts that will be distributed with food hampers to Wairarapa families in need this Christmas. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

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Not everyone can afford all the bells and whistles for their family at Christmas time, but Wairarapa community groups are making sure no one goes without.

With less than a week until Santa arrives, the region’s foodbanks, churches, and charities are gearing up for the busiest time of year, with food parcels being prepared and donated gifts being wrapped for distribution.

Masterton Foodbank co-ordinator Lyn Tankersley said the charity would be feeding “thousands of people” this week.

The holiday season was a tough time for many and the problem did not appear to be going away, with more and more people asking for help every year.

“People are definitely struggling. Even double income families are really struggling – high rents are the worst [contributing factor].”

She said Christmas time often meant extra mouths to feed with friends and family visiting, and the public holidays resulted in a drop in income for some working families.

“It can be a panic for people to get food on the table.”

So far, Foodbank has 110 orders for Christmas hampers, which will comprise everything from meat and gravy, to the classic Kiwi dip and chips, to Christmas pudding or tarts.

On top of these, Foodbank will be distributing the usual food parcels in the lead-up to the big day.

“We’ll probably do 250 parcels this week,” Tankersley said, noting that number did not include food parcels that would be distributed in Carterton or South Wairarapa.

Tankersley said Pack the Bus, a joint initiative by Tranzit, More FM Wairarapa, Mitre 10 Mega and Masterton District Council, had resulted in an incredible number of donated gifts. Items included beach towels, school bags, stationary, and surf boards, which will be distributed alongside the Christmas hampers.

“I cried when I saw this stuff. I got really emotional – just thinking about all the things people had given was really heart-warming.”

She said she was thankful to supermarkets and the community for being so generous.

Carterton Foodbank co-ordinator Kevin Conroy said the charity was working closely with the Salvation Army and between them they would be distributing at least 60 Christmas hampers to the community.

He said food parcel numbers were increasing and he agreed that the challenging rental market played a part, as did bills and changes in circumstance.

“I think life is getting harder for people,” he said.

“Fortunately, we fulfil a real need in our community and the cases that come our way are genuine.”

The Room at the Inn free community Christmas lunch has been held in Masterton since 2002.

Hosted by the Masterton Community Church, Pastor Pete Hampson said the goal was to ensure that no one spent Christmas alone.

On average 200 people are fed each year, with up to 60 members of the community volunteering at the event.

Individuals and families who want to attend the free event at Trust House Recreation Centre have until 2pm today to register – “but no one will be turned away”.

Registrations can be made by calling Masterton Community Church on [06] 377 1598.

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