From our Emergency Relief Services: Christmas at Cessnock Information and Neighbourhood Centre
Latest News · 15th December 2021

From our Emergency Relief Services: Christmas at Cessnock Information and Neighbourhood Centre

Everyone has been impacted by the events of 2021 in one way or another, but for many vulnerable people this year has been particularly tough. Because of you, we are able provide spaces for vulnerable people to feel valued, listened to and respected.

We caught up with Samaritans Information and Neighbourhood
Centre (SINC) ER Intensive Case Worker, Peter, about how this year has impacted our community and how Samaritans can help in the lead up to Christmas.

How has the recent lockdown impacted the people we support?

Now that the COVID supplement payments have stopped, we’re seeing new clients that haven’t had to come to us before. Most families need assistance with paying for their electricity and gas bills and we also offer vouchers for that little helping hand, and assistance for Christmas to help them get that fresh start for the new year.

We had a family of five come in – the mum was a stay-at-home parent who looked after the kids and the dad was working full time. COVID hit and the dad lost his job. They were living week-to-week before dad lost his job, and they were pushed over the edge where they needed that assistance for the first time. We helped them with electricity, gas and fresh fruit and vegetables. That was the beginning of the lockdown, and we gave them all the help we could to get them through.

What do you think Christmas will look like this year for the people we support?

Christmas will be different this year. With the kids being at home for such a long time, it has increased the bills and put a strain on budgets, so families won’t have that extra money they would usually have to celebrate.

We’re looking at having to provide more Christmas assistance for toys, food parcels and vouchers.

We usually get Christmas food donated with our toy donations and we make up parcels. I did my first Christmas pick-up from the Kurri Kurri craft ladies. They all put in to buy toys and Christmas food and they make gifts throughout the year.

What does SINC do to support people in the community during Christmas?

We still have our normal Emergency Relief work and I also try to help my volunteers who are madly sorting gifts for local families in the community.

I send a call-out for assistance to the community for toys and food donations. We have a couple of local businesses who help us too. Once the gifts start rolling in, our volunteers sort them into age groups for the children – we do an interview with the parents who need assistance to get to know what the children like and what their needs are.

On the collection day we give the children’s toys to the parents, and we have presents ready for adults as well. It’s a great feeling. All my kids are grown up so it’s nice to see parents with little ones get gifts.

Parents even come back and tell us how much their children loved their gifts. Last year, we managed to get a new bike for a young girl who had to spend time in hospital in the lead up to Christmas. That was a great outcome. It’s amazing to see how the community steps up and helps each other – that’s what Christmas is all about.

SINC is a vital community centre located in Cessnock that offers information, support and emergency assistance.