The Christmas project began in 1994 out of an awareness of the poverty and social isolation of residents of Licensed (now Assisted) Boarding Houses. As a result of advocacy, legislative change and effective monitoring, living conditions have improved. The NDIS has reduced social isolation. However, residents still have little personal money and very few have regular contact with family or friends.
As these people move to group homes or aged care, they remain poor and friendless. We maintain contact and have followed some people since 1994.
PERSONAL GIFT PARCELS
In 2021, 932 men and women across NSW received gift parcels of perfume or aftershave, socks and lollies. These people were in varied living situations:
- 6 Assisted Boarding Houses
- 35 Group Homes
- 24 Aged Care facilities
- 3 Disability Care organisations
- 13 people living independently with support
6 schools packed and delivered 448 parcels and Gethsemane packed and delivered 484 parcels.
TOILETRY, FOOD AND GIFT HAMPERS
390 hampers containing a complete range of toiletries, enough basic food for three days, festive food, and a calendar were prepared for clients of:
- Redfern and Marrickville Mental Health teams
- The Mobile Assertive treatment teams at Camperdown and Croydon
- The Camperdown Core teams including The Case Management Team and Aboriginal Mental Health teams and Croydon Core team
- Royal Prince Alfred and Canterbury Drugs Health teams.
A coded system allows interested people to send a personal Christmas card to one of the 932 people on our data base. In 2021, about 13,000 coded labels were distributed. Cards come back to the Gethsemane post box and are re-directed to the actual facility where the individual lives. Potentially, each person could receive at least 10 cards. These people never receive personal mail, so the cards are greatly enjoyed. They are often used to decorate a person’s room or the walls of a boarding house.
Because of Covid fears, only a small group opted to join us for Christmas lunch this year.
There were 13 guests, 2 carers and 10 volunteers. Drinks and nibbles were followed by a full Christmas lunch and then presents were distributed.
Excess gifts were taken to RPA Drugs Health for their clients.
Excess food was taken to Denroma at Marrickville, and Cavendish Lodge at Croydon, Assisted Boarding houses for people with disabilities.
- Christian Brothers High School Lewisham (Primary section) reached residents without family in 8 aged care facilities and 5 group homes
- St Therese Primary, Mascot reached two large aged care facilities
- Mount St Joseph, Milperra reached two aged care facilities
- Corpus Christi Primary, St Ives reached two assisted boarding houses
- Chevalier College, Bowral reached Rosnel Hostel at Bundanoon and Southern Highlands Disability Trust at Mittagong.
St Anthony’s Primary School Clovelly and Our Lady of the Rosary Primary school at Kensington and Our Lady Star of the Sea Primary at Hurstville donated toiletries.
- Parishoners from and visitors to St Patrick’s Church Hill donated $43,565.43. Michael Whelan SM, parish priest, the Marist community and the parish team were deeply supportive of our Christmas project again this year. They have been our greatest supporters for well over 20 years.
- Individual donors sent $4,500
- Marion Court Units donated tinned food and residents donated the proceeds of their Christmas raffle $1,200
- The owner of Priceline Marrickville Metro Pharmacy donated 200 each of a range of toiletries and Jodee, the buyer, searched for special deals on the others we bought and also looked for the best prices on perfume and aftershave. Alex delivered carloads of toiletries.
- Tim Mc Master, Manager of Woolworths at Marrickville Metro, gave a gift voucher for $300
- MacKillop Grange Retirement Village donated a large amount of tinned food for hampers and some donations. April O’Shea and Caroline Grace, in administration, were most helpful and supportive, liaising with Bernadette O’Sullivan RSJ, who is a resident.
- Greg and Robyn Bombell at Exercise. Prescription and Physiotherapy at Burwood encouraged clients to donate a large amount of festive food. They also donated $885. They have supported us for many years.
- Kathy Wilson wrote names on all 932 labels for the gift parcels
- Tricia Meers worked on packing gifts and hampers over many Tuesdays and Saturdays. Tricia also enlisted volunteers Dee Butler. Tricia took over the record keeping so that we bought exactly what was needed. She worked tirelessly over three months.
- Members of the mental health and drugs health teams worked on packing hampers and assisted in delivering them
- Tricia and Bernadette O’Sullivan SJ cooked two Christmas puddings each
- Tricia Meers spoke at three Masses at St Patrick’s Church Hill on the first Sunday of Advent and Myree spoke at five of them
- Raymond Younan and his assistants water blasted the carport, driveway, front steps and cleaned the chairs
- Many people assisted in shopping for food, looking for hard-to-find items, packing and distribution of parcels and hampers
- Tony and Rhonda Tanti drove across Sydney delivering gift parcels. They ran an early appeal at their parish church in Lidcombe and collected a large amount of tinned food for the hampers. They helped sort and stack these and the food deliveries from Woolworths.
- Michael Holland delivered a carload of gift parcels to Katoomba aged care and group homes. He also delivered gifts to Southern Highlands Disability Trust at Goulburn.
- Some volunteers, such as Michael Holland, Liz Croucher and John Star assisted many times
- All work on packing of gift parcels and hampers was done in accordance with Covid-19 health regulations. Volunteers’ details were recorded, work was done in the open, under our double carport, with hand sanitising and social distancing. Once delivered to mental health and drug facilities, hampers were quarantined for two weeks before being given to their clients. Gift parcels, provided well in advance, had the same protection.
Bernadette Chad prepared the data-base and checked names over six months.
Bernadette Chad and George Harris sorted, packaged and re-posted or delivered many thousands of Christmas cards addressed to 932 people in 70 facilities. They drove around or walked to nearby places to deliver some of them. They did this during the whole of December.
Holy Spirit Aged Care at Revesby and Denroma at Marrickville said the residents loved the Christmas cards and used them to decorate the premises.
Thank you to everyone who participated.
Myree Harris RSJ
18th January 2022