More than 2000 volunteers in 12 locations across New Zealand are expected to pack a record 32,000 Christmas Boxes for kiwi families in need this Saturday.
Christmas Box began in 2001 as a small community initiative of delivering gift-wrapped food boxes to neighbouring families at Christmas time.
Twenty-three years later, Christmas Box is New Zealand’s largest Christmas charity initiative, involving 500 partner organisations. It’s estimated more than one million people have been fed since 2001.
Head of Community Response, Rebecca So'e, says they have raised $900,000 through sponsors and partnerships, and are now appealing to the general public for the remaining $300,000 to reach a need “greater than ever before:”.
“We’ve seen hardship stats get worse across the country and one in five kids are living in food scarcity. Here at LIFE Community we’re serving around 2000 meals per week to families in need, which is a 33% increase from last year.
“We know a lot of families are dreading an empty table and feelings of failure as a parent this Christmas.
“Donating a Christmas Box not only means a family has a meal to look forward to, it removes a lot of stress and worry and tells that family that someone sees them and cares about them. We see so many families break into tears when they receive a Christmas box and see someone cares about them.”
But So’e says LIFE Community “can’t do it alone”.
“To reach all the families we can this Christmas, we’re asking kiwis to band together with us and donate $40 to provide a Christmas Box to a family in need. None of us can meet this need on our own, but together we can bring help and hope to families in need this Christmas.”
Head of Community Response, Rebecca So'e.
Each Christmas Box caters to a family of four to six and contains around 20 food items including staple items and treats.
Organisations partnering to make Christmas Box happen include community groups, churches, government agencies, the NZ Police domestic violence unit, and logistics and freight companies.
Olivia Huang is a solo mother of an eight-year-old son and a domestic-abuse survivor who has no wider family to turn to at Christmas.
She was made redundant from her job as an early childhood teacher earlier this year and says she can only just afford to put basic food on the table.
“We drive past McDonald’s to go home every day from school and my son asks me if we can go there, because his friends have McDonald’s parties there. I don’t know how to explain that if we do, we won’t be able to eat the next day. Sometimes I buy him a cheeseburger and go without food.
“I’m so grateful for New Zealanders helping me in my time of need. I’m just shocked and lost for words that people who don’t know us would reach out their hands to us.
“My son asks me: who are they? I tell him I don't know but we have to pay it forward and help other people, not only people we know but people we don’t know too, because we’re so touched a stranger would do this for us.”
Chris Young is one of the 2000 volunteers that pack and distribute the boxes. It’s his twelfth year volunteering this Christmas.
“My favourite part is seeing the smiles on children’s faces when they open their boxes, and the parents’ joy at seeing their children’s smiles. The fact I can provide that for $40 is a total no brainer.”
To donate provide a Christmas Box for a family in need, donate at Christmasbox.co.nz