Illawarra toy drives give families doing it tough reason to smile

Illawarra and Shoalhaven families doing it tough this festive season will have a reason to smile on Christmas morning, thanks to the generosity of the community.

The offices of two of the regions’ politicians have again been inundated with gifts as a result of their respective Christmas toy drives.

Keira MP Ryan Park’s drive, which marked its sixth year in 2017, has seen toys worth thousands of dollars handed to the Wollongong Homeless Hub and Supported Accommodation and Homelessness Services Shoalhaven Illawarra (SAHSSI).  SAHSSI is a not-for-profit homelessness service that supports women and children across the Illawarra who are homeless or at risk.

PRESENTS: Keira MP Ryan Park surrounded by toys in his Corrimal office. The gifts went to the Wollongong Homeless Hub and SAHSSI. Picture: Adam McLean

PRESENTS: Keira MP Ryan Park surrounded by toys in his Corrimal office. The gifts went to the Wollongong Homeless Hub and SAHSSI. Picture: Adam McLean

Thirty-five women and 60 children are currently being helped at SAHSSI’s two Illawarra refuges. At present, the service’s head office provides outreach support for 58 women and 82 children (some of whom live in transitional accommodation and others are homeless or in at-risk situations).

Mr Park said the toy drive meant those women and children would have a bit of Christmas cheer to wake up to on Monday morning. 

“The generous donations from people across the Illawarra will make a huge difference to hundreds of Illawarra families doing it tough,” he said.

“Time and again, I am reminded of the tremendous community spirit that we have in the Illawarra – this is the true spirit of Christmas.”

Last week, Kiama MP Gareth Ward packed up dozens of Christmas gifts for kids with disabilities. Presents donated as part of his Christmas toy drive were given to Noah’s Ark Shoalhaven.

“I know that families with children with special needs often have additional costs associated with the care of their children,” Mr Ward said.

DONATION: Kiama MP Gareth Ward and Sue Redman, from Noah's Ark, with a few of the gifts donated as part of Mr Ward's Christmas toy drive. Picture: Rebecca Fist

DONATION: Kiama MP Gareth Ward and Sue Redman, from Noah's Ark, with a few of the gifts donated as part of Mr Ward's Christmas toy drive. Picture: Rebecca Fist

“That can sometimes make things hard.

“If we can provide an opportunity to for people to give and show a capacity to share this Christmas, I think it’s really important.

“Sadly for a lot of families in this region, they don’t get to share in something that’s really important, that is the opportunity to give presents.

“This is one way I can help them do that.”

Kiama Men’s Shed also chipped in to help ensure no one went without a present by crafting old-fashioned, wooden toys.

“The local men’s shed have done some really authentic toys so I’m looking forward to see the happy faces receiving them,” Mr Ward said.

Sue Redman from Noah’s Ark accepted the gifts..

“It’s a lovely contribution and I know the families will really appreciate it,” Ms Redman said. “It means the community are behind them, supporting them, it’s something special.”

                          - with Rebecca Fist