By Peter Gardiner, CEO Samaritans

What do you think Christmas looks like for locals living in disadvantage? No tree, no gifts, no feast. No Christmas cheer, either. How can you feel cheery when you’ve had to choose paying the electricity bill over buying the children presents? At Samaritans, we see a significant increase in demand for our services as people in our community struggle to make ends meet- not being able to put a Christmas meal on the table, to pay electricity bills or to purchase a gift for their children.

Disadvantage is widespread in our community and around the country. For a wealthy country like Australia, there is still an unacceptably high number of families and communities stuck in a cycle of poverty. People on lower incomes tend to be excluded from good education, good healthcare, decent housing, work opportunities and often from full community participation. At Christmas Time, there is always an added pressure on families to provide the trimmings of the festive season as well as cover the usual living costs and bills that pile in. We are calling out for you to support us as we support those in need this Christmas.

To provide for those who are coming to Samaritans for help, we opened a Christmas Assistance Centre for people who need additional support to come and choose a gift for their family members. Our Emergency Relief service always sees a spike at Christmas, and with the generosity of the community, we provide support to thousands of people seeking food and financial support to pay their bills over the Christmas period. Emergency Relief services aim to assist people of the Hunter who are experiencing hardship with food parcels, financial assistance such as the payment of household bills or grocery vouchers, advocacy with debtors and no-interest loan schemes.

Samaritans will also celebrate Christmas Lunch in the Park in Newcastle, on the Central Coast and in Singleton. These events share lunch, entertainment and Christmas cheer with those who would have otherwise been unable to celebrate Christmas Day, or spent the day alone. All costs are met by the generosity of local businesses including major sponsors, Port Waratah Coal Services, Woolworths Mayfield, Event Cinemas, HMA Group, Club Toukley, IGA Metcash and Charlestown Square, as well as all staffing provided by hundreds of volunteers. People from all walks of life spend a few hours together with lunch and entertainment- an inspiring occasion put on by the community, for the community.

Our regional communities have always shown a strong spirit of supporting others in times of crisis. Spare a thought this Christmas for those that are doing it tough and if you can, donate a few dollars to help share the gift of hope if you are able. Donations can also be made directly to Samaritans for the Christmas Appeal on 1300 656 336 or

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