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
This year, our data base has 786 names. We found that, since last year, three aged care facilities had closed and not all residents could be traced for ongoing gift delivery. One large disability organisation changed its structure and we were unable to make contact with the disparate groups.
In 2022, 786 men and women across NSW received gift parcels of perfume or aftershave, socks and lollies. These people were in varied living situations:
- 5 Assisted Boarding Houses
- 31 Group Homes
- 24 Aged Care facilities
- 2 Disability Care organisations
- 12 people living independently with support
5 schools packed and delivered 336 parcels and Gethsemane packed and delivered 450 parcels.
Packing gift 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.
Preparing Christmas Hampers for delivery or collection
A coded system allows interested people to send a personal Christmas card to one of the 786 people on our data base. In 2022, about 10,000 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 9 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.
This year, there were 20 guests, 2 carers and 10 volunteers. Drinks and nibbles were followed by a full Christmas lunch and then presents were distributed.
Excess gifts, as well as tinned food and toiletries were taken to St Paul’s Anglican Church in Burwood, which provides food and other items to many people in the area. Fr James has set up a food bank in the church grounds. 40% of people in the area are renting and there are many general boarding houses.
Excess food was taken to Denroma at Marrickville, an Assisted Boarding houses for people with disabilities.
- Christian Brothers High School Lewisham (Primary section) packed and delivered gifts for 126 residents without family in 9 aged care facilities and 3 group homes
- St Therese Primary, Mascot provided gifts for 95 residents in two large aged care facilities
- Mount St Joseph, Milperra provided gifts for 48 residents without family support in two aged care facilities
- Corpus Christi Primary, St Ives provided gifts for 44 residents in two assisted boarding houses
- Chevalier College, Bowral provided gifts for 31 residents at Rosnel Hostel at Bundanoon.
St Anthony’s Primary School Clovelly and Our Lady of the Rosary Primary school at Kensington, Our Lady Star of the Sea Primary at Hurstville donated toiletries and St Andrew’s Primary at Malabar donated socks.
- Parishoners from and visitors to St Patrick’s Church Hill donated $32,072 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 $2500
- Marion Court Units donated tinned food and a donation
- 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.
- MacKillop Grange Retirement Village donated a large amount of tinned food for hampers and individual donations. April O’Shea and Caroline Grace, in administration, were most helpful and supportive, liaising with Bernadette O’Sullivan RSJ, who is a resident
- Kathy Wilson wrote names on all 786 labels for the gift parcels.
- Tricia Meers spoke at all Masses at St Patrick’s on November 27th
- 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 Christmas puddings.
OVERALL MANAGEMENT OF THE CHRISTMAS PROJECT 2022
Michael and Tony Holland, and Rhonda and Tony Tanti took over the organization and coordination of the Christmas Project this year. Myree Harris RSJ was in hospital for three weeks in November and December. She had surgery on 16th December and returned to Gethsemane on 22nd. All four spent untold hours buying, sorting, and stacking toiletries and food. The 450 gift parcels were packed in October and the 390 hampers in November.
- Tony and Rhonda Tanti drove across Sydney delivering gift parcels. They also took parcels to Mittagong and Umina. 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 and Tony Holland, Rhonda and Tony Tanti, Liz Croucher and John Star assisted many times.
- Michael and Tony Tanti, Rhonda and Tony Tanti, Liz Croucher and John Star organized Christmas lunch for 20 people with disabilities.
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 786 people in 62 facilities. They drove around or walked to nearby places to deliver some of them. They did this during the whole of December.
Thank you to everyone who participated.
Myree Harris RSJ
7th January 2023