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Cupboards bare at Christmas

WHILE most families are planning a Christmas with stockings full of gifts and a table brimming with food, many others are struggling to put a meal on the table.
Local community organisations are witnessing an increase in demand for food and services and emergency relief is expected to cater for hundreds of people in Korumburra and Leongatha.
According to Salvation Army Leongatha Corps officer Glenn Smith, there are 160 families already accessing food hampers and toys for Christmas with the expectation that figure will more than double.
The Salvation Army Leongatha Corps and Uniting Gippsland collaborate at Christmas to distribute hampers and toys to families who would otherwise go without.
It is understood Uniting Gippsland has also experienced an increase in demand for services.
Captain Smith said it would be amazing if he was done out of a job because there was no more homelessness or poverty.
“We haven’t done more than in previous years to advertise the service. I think more people are really in need of help,” he said.
“The cost of living is getting higher and from what I’ve heard time and again, the increase in rates as well as access to affordable rentals is adding a lot of pressure.
“The community has stepped in to give us some fantastic support. Groups such as the Leongatha Australia Post staff, Woorayl PROBUS, Leongatha Senior Citizens and Inverloch RACV resort have donated.”
Hampers contain Christmas fare including a roast chicken, mince pies, roasting vegetables and a pudding.
Capt. Glenn said the look of relief on people’s faces when they knew there would be something under the tree for their child at Christmas was very humbling.
In Korumburra, Milpara Community House runs as a distribution point for Christmas hampers by the St Vincent de Paul Society in Korumburra and the Rotary Club of Korumburra’s wishing tree gifts.
Milpara House manager Jenni Keerie said anyone accessing the emergency foodbank was informed of the hamper service.
“There’s about 25 families who will need food at Christmas in Korumburra, that means there are more than 100 people needing support,” she said.
“We have been doing this for a number of years and during our emergency relief day more people will access the food hampers.
“From our work throughout the year as a foodbank, I know there are a lot of people doing it tough.”
St Vincent de Paul in Leongatha secretary Anne Vaughan said the society is experiencing greater demand for help.
“We have probably doubled our assistance this year. Part of the extra was that we have also been looking after the Korumburra area while Korumburra Conference was in recess. It has now got going again and will be in full swing next year,” she said.
The society has been providing Christmas vouchers, hampers and pamper gifts.
“This year our Christmas assistance has gone out to 230 families across the Leongatha, Meeniyan, Mirboo North, Venus Bay, Korumburra, Loch, Bena, Poowong and Nyora areas,” Ms Vaughan said.
“We are invaluable to those in need throughout the year and like to give a little bit of Christmas joy mainly to those we have served.”
Rebecca Matthews of Manna Gum Community House at Foster is seeing an increase in demand for hampers and food relief.
The house will distribute 30 hampers this year, up from the normal 20.
“We find that whatever food relief and vouchers we are able to provide within the limits of our resources is easily absorbed by local demand,” she said.
The house services the district of Corner Inlet, from Welshpool to Buffalo and to Mount Best, including Fish Creek, Foster and Toora.
“Limited public transport means that for a lot of our clients the food relief services in the larger towns are inaccessible,” Ms Matthews said.
“The cost of living is rising but there has been no significant increase to Centrelink payments and people simply can’t make ends meet with their income, particularly when hit with an unexpected large expense.
“This time of year many people are struggling to pay the electricity bills from the winter period. We also see a lot of local families impacted by a sudden loss of employment or the onset of a serious health issue.
We have more than 100 people registered with us to receive emergency relief and we know from the latest statistics from Victorian Council of Social Services that there are 900 people (approximately 16 percent) in Corner Inlet living in poverty.
Foster Probus and St Vincent de Paul provide the house with additional foodbank donations.
“We received a significant grant from StreetSmart Australia this year to boost our hampers and to also provide a Christmas lunch as part of our monthly Community Kitchen program which we deliver with St Vincent de Paul,” Ms Matthews said.
“We work with the Foster Youth Assist Clinic to assist with food security for young people, some of whom are homeless, as well as the local schools and youth workers from SalvoCare.
“We receive support from some local businesses, and from individuals in the community. We receive referrals from health service providers and other community organisations.”
The hampers include special Christmas food items like cake, pudding and custard.
There’s also general items such as dried or canned foods, soaps, shampoo, sunscreen for families and children’s books.
Some clients are homeless or in temporary housing, and there is a combination of individuals, families and young people. Most are under 65 years of age.
The hampers are assembled by volunteers.
The Salvation Army will be hosting an emergency relief day with Uniting Gippsland on Friday, December 21 for anyone who is in need of food or gifts between 10am to 1pm.
Ms Keerie said if people in would like to receive a hamper and gifts for their children they can contact Milpara House on 565 2524 or St Vincent’s de Paul Korumburra on 5658 1103.

Giving spirit: Leongatha St Vincent de Paul recently received a lovely donation from the Woorayl CWA group of 54 pamper packs to give out to those in need for Christmas. Back, from left, Angelina Polato, Mary Patterson, Evelyn Stephens and Kath Clark, and in front, Tayissa Walsh and Chloe Battersby. St Vincent de Paul will hand out Christmas vouchers, additional hampers to larger families (thanks to Mary MacKillop College students) and a gifting table for people to choose one item on Tuesday, December 18 and Wednesday, December 19.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=26963

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