Christmas helpers bring joy to those who need it most.

(L-R)Adrian Kok from the Rotary Club of Launceston, Llani Gray from TasTAFE, Eric Welsh, from the St Vincent de Paul Society (Tas), Despina Kontaratos from TasTAFE, and Bernard Dobson from West Tamar Lions Club 

St Vincent de Paul Society Project Co-ordinator, Eric Welsh, is the Santa Claus very few people have heard of; but with his team of Christmas helpers, he brings joy to people who need it most. The number of disadvantaged Tasmanians who are finding it difficult to make ends meet, especially at Christmas time, is growing due to the cost of living crisis, but this has not stopped Eric from helping those in need.

Speaking about the growing need to help vulnerable Tasmanians who are facing challenges this Christmas, Eric said that affordability of food, rent, and utility bills are just a few of the basics that make it difficult for some people to afford a family Christmas.

“The list of challenges faced by vulnerable Tasmanians seems to be endless. The big ones are homelessness and domestic violence; but these have their roots in many smaller challenges that become insurmountable. Utility prices for gas and electricity have risen by close to 12 percent. Rents are higher. Food prices have gone up. It’s a reflection of what is happening in the economy; but people who were already vulnerable find it difficult to cope with additional challenges,” Eric said.

“The St Vincent de Paul Society offer as much support to vulnerable people as we can. We are there to offer a hand up rather than hand out, but at Christmas time, as we hand out hampers, it is worth remembering that a little Christmas cheer goes a long way to restoring hope.

“Vinnies offers support in the form of assistance given through our Assistance Hub. In Northern Tasmania, we have a hub in Launceston and another in George Town. Assistance can take the form of food parcels and food vouchers, assistance with electricity bills, and in some cases financial advice or assistance to find emergency accommodation.

“Vinnies can help people who are experiencing financial hardship with regular assistance of food. This frees up some of their cash, which they can use to pay an outstanding bill.

“At this time of year, Vinnies Christmas Hampers are in great demand. We estimate that we will deliver about 300 hampers across the region this year, which will assist around 700 people. Vinnies’ goal is to provide enough food for families and individuals to last two to three days over the Christmas period. Without a Vinnies Hamper, Christmas would just be like every any other day for the people we assist. We estimate the value of Vinnies’s Christmas Hampers this year to be around $60,000.

“As a community, it is so important to support vulnerable Tasmanians. To quote the Society’s Mission Statement, ‘the St Vincent de Paul society is a lay Catholic organisation that aspires to live the gospel message by serving Christ in the poor with love, respect, justice, hope, and joy and by working to shape a more just and compassionate society.’ Isn’t that what Christmas should be about – reaching out and helping those who are not as fortunate?

“Christmas brings out the best in the community. Even our younger community members play an important role in supporting Vinnies. For instance, the six Catholic schools in and around Launceston support Vinnies with Christmas Treat Bags. There are seven Christmas treats in each bag, which go out with the Christmas hampers. This year, we will distribute around 180 Christmas Treat Bags. We’ll also receive support from St. Patrick’s college. They allow some students to come along and help us to prepare everything for Christmas distribution.

“Of course, while Vinnies does a lot to support the community, we also partner with other charities and service groups to ensure we can assist as many vulnerable people as possible. Launceston Rotary Club, West Tamar Council, West Tamar Rotary Club, West Tamar Lions Club help us to help to help other. Also, this year, TasTAFE has introduced a giving program titled TasTAFE Community Tree across all four campuses in Tasmania. We are so grateful to have been selected as their chosen charity for 2022. This will allow us to help even more vulnerable Tasmanians

“If it wasn’t for St Vincent de Paul Society, and indeed, City Mission, the Salvation, and the Benevolent Society, many people would not have a joyous festive season. Christmas Day would just be another day of the week. This is why we are so grateful to all of our donors and supporters. Their generosity makes a world of difference to the lives of people in need

“We expect to reach about 700 people this Christmas. This is up from 500 last year. We are anticipating more demand this year due to the cost of living crisis. Thankfully, donations of food have increased a little; and we’ve had some new donor partners come on board.

“Vinnies would like to say thank you to everyone who helped to make Christmas Day special for a family or person in need. On Christmas Day, you might like to stop and reflect on the thought that your gift, donation, or the food you dropped off, has found its way to a family in our community and will make a difference to their Christmas,” Eric said.

The St Vincent de Paul Society is always looking for people who are interested in joining a Conference and contributing to Vinnies’ charitable works in the community. If this sounds like you, please contact Vinnies State Membership manager, Melissa White on 03 6333 0822.

Media contact, Mark Wells: +61 414 015 966 (24-hours)
© St Vincent de Paul Society and MWPA.

Tags: News