Santa is on his way, with help from the Salvos

By Shepparton News

There is nothing like the feeling; being a child on Christmas morning.

The anticipation the night before, the careful setting out of shortbread and milk, the quest to stay awake to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus himself.

But for plenty of parents struggling to pay the bills or battling unemployment, it can be a different feeling that greets them on Christmas Eve.

Dread, empty Santa sacks, and the distinct sense that you're about to let someone you love down.

But with the help of the Salvation Army, dozens of families will experience joy as stockings are filled with donated toys and gifts.

And the Salvos are calling on businesses, clubs and individuals to get involved in their annual toy drive.

“It simply can't happen without the support of our community and the help of our volunteers,” Shepparton Salvation Army Captain Karyn Wishart said.

“And it has a huge impact on the people... we help.

“Struggling families come in and are able to have the dignity to choose toys or gifts for their children.”

For Shepparton single mum of three Fiona*, the toy drive and support from the Salvos has been life changing.

After leaving an unhealthy relationship earlier in the year, she's battled to stay afloat on a single parenting payment.

“Some days my family goes without food and our basic necessities such as toothpaste and shampoo,” she said.

“I found myself for the first time ever not knowing where the next meal would come from, let alone thinking about Christmas.”

But a moment of bravery changed her life.

She walked into the Salvation Army's assistance centre, Salvocare, and was able to get help with things like food and financial counselling to get her bills and budgeting under control.

“I didn't feel like I was alone anymore,” she said.

Coming up to Christmas with her eldest in Year 8 and youngest in Prep, presents weren't looking like a possibility - until the Salvos stepped in again.

“I didn't have anything for Christmas,” she said.

“Being able to get toys means my children do not miss out on Christmas day.

“The fact that this is an option is unbelievable. Without it, Christmas would not be as exciting for my kids.”

Captain Wishart said that each year, the interactions between volunteers and parents on the toy distribution day was a wonderful display of Christmas spirit.

“It is a beautiful interaction between strangers,’ she said.

“We are very grateful for our volunteers and those who donate.”

For Fiona, the greatest gift she'll get this Christmas is the look on her children's faces as they open their presents from under the tree.

“I want to thank the community for being so generous and giving. You have shown what a great city Shepparton is to live in.”

The toy drive is in need of gifts for children from infants into their teenage years. This year there is a particular need for gifts, like vouchers, for older children.

You can donate a gift under the K-mart wishing tree at the Shepparton store, directly to the Salvation Army at 99 Nixon St (open Tuesday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm) or at Hearing Australia.

If your family or someone you know is in need of Christmas assistance, call the Salvos on 5820 8000.

*not her real name.