Adopting Families for Christmas Programme is a part of The Salvation Army Christmas response for communities across New Zealand. The aim of the programme is to give gifts to families who need them this Christmas.

The programme was started 18 years ago when a group of lawyers approached a Salvation Army court officer in Manukau and said they wanted to buy presents for a family in need, rather than just for their own family.

Ministry in Manukau Corps

Janice Holdaway, the Adopting Families coordinator for Manukau Corps, said the programme was first launched at Manukau Corps, then grew to include Taupō, Hutt City and Tauranga Corps.

Janice said that in previous years Manukau Corps provided gifts for people through agencies, but due to a difficult year, they are just focusing on people who are being supported by The Salvation Army through programmes and services.

Over many years, there has been a real connection with the sponsors; there are families who donate a gift box every Christmas and it has become a way for the parents to teach their children about giving.

‘They would take their own kids shopping and buy for this other family,’ said Janice. ‘And those children are now stepping in and taking over so it’s become a real tradition for some of our lovely families.’

Last year, they had almost 200 donors support over 300 families, and the previous year they supported almost 500 families.

‘It is all about blessing the families who have been with them and worked hard through their programmes this year,’ she said.

Giving gifts at Taupō Corps 

Adopting Families at Taupō Corps was started five years ago.

Corps Officer Lieutenant Charlene Whybrow said that Taupō Corps partners with agencies such as Family First and Family Start throughout the year who then give them a list of families who may need extra support at Christmas time.

Each corps that runs Adopting Families gifts locally, so donors in Taupō are giving to families also living in the city of Taupō.

Charlene sees Adopting Families as an important way of allowing space for people to give this Christmas. ‘It is a great way to facilitate people’s generosity, because there are lots of people in the community who want to give and we can help them give to those families who need it.’

The way it works in Taupō is that Community Ministries Coordinator Micah Corbett gets a list from the agencies and of other clients who’ve come into the centre, usually 20 to 30 families, which they then find donors for in their corps and community. The donors then put together gift hampers which are given to the families before Christmas.

Easing the strain on families

Many of these families are already working with the agencies to improve things, such as creating a budget, providing food or accommodation, and the gift hamper is an ‘extra blessing at Christmas’, said Charlene.

She said that some families have tight budgets so may not have much left over for little extra things for Christmas, so the gift hampers meet that need.

Families have anywhere between two to eight kids, and so far this year they have 10 families registered—about 60 people—to give to.

When a donor is assigned to a family, they are told how many children and their ages so they can buy age-appropriate gifts, plus some food items for the whole family.

This year, Charlene said they are creating a gift guide to give donors suggestions of what to buy for families, particularly for those
who may be harder to buy for, like fathers, and also age-appropriate toys for children.

There’s also the option to purchase gift vouchers for the family instead, so this gives donors the flexibility of whether they want to choose the gifts or not.

‘I know some people really love choosing gifts, so that’s probably quite fun for those people. And then other people … they can be really generous with their giving and just give vouchers,’ said Charlene.

No gift too small

If the donor wants to give but doesn’t have much to spend, they can always give practical gifts such as wrapping paper and sticky tape for the family to wrap their presents.

There’s always a way for people to give, but it is up to each donor to decide what they will buy and how much they will spend on presents.

A highlight of the programme for Charlene was last year when a mother and her children came into Taupō Corps after Christmas. They were super grateful and the kids had even made thank you cards.  

Charlene said they don’t always know what the family’s situation is, but it’s a blessing to give to those families who may be working hard to make ends meet.

‘If we can make Christmas a special time where people don’t have to stress about not having something for their kids, that’s really, really cool’.