Number of families in need increases

Some of the volunteers at last year’s Christmas Cheer, from left, Katie Phillips, Robyn Todd, Karen Baker, Roxy Leach, Julie Drage, Peter Phillips, and Denise and Peter Reid.

Growing economic hardship saw the number of local families receiving Cambridge Christmas Cheer increase last year to 112, up from the 77 families receiving help in 2019.

Cambridge Committee of Social Services (CCOSS) organisers have done their final tally for Cambridge Cheer in 2020. They attributed the increase to the growing economic pressure on families, linked particularly to fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Each family received a supermarket voucher through the initiative, a frozen chicken, a bag of other Christmas food and children’s toys.

Everything was donated by local organisations, businesses and individuals in the community, with CCOSS collecting the donations in the lead-up to Christmas, then holding a three-day Christmas Cheer when families collected their donations and selected toys for their children.

CCOSS chairperson Julie Epps said: “We can’t thank the Cambridge community enough for helping with Christmas Cheer through their donations. There are so many people to thank … a lot of them were anonymous.”

Among those she mentioned was Cambridge Rotary and Lions clubs, who have supported the initiative for years, Cogswell Surveys, Cambridge Storage, CSC Buying Group, Heritage Gallery and the Waipā District Council’s WaipāRecovery Fund.  Julie also thanked the then Salvation Army leaders Karen and Shaun Baker, and the volunteers who helped on Christmas Cheer days. “It was a real community effort.”

New to the initiative in 2020 was the placement of collection bins in businesses, churches and schools.

“They were really popular and were emptied many times over with toys and food,” Julie said. “The families who received Christmas Cheer were so appreciative.”

CCOSS is a group of Cambridge social agencies and community groups. It includes churches, Lions, Cambridge Community House, Cambridge Marae, Age Concern, Mana Hapori, Cambridge Community Board, Citizens Advice Bureau, the Cambridge Police and Safer Communities.

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