Big Christmas cheer-up

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About 200 needy or lonely Queenstowners will receive surprise Christmas presents, thanks to a goodwill gesture from a local hotel and a church.

With community input, City Impact Church is selecting up to 200 locals who could do with some Christmas cheer.

The Sofitel hotel, which this week installed a large Christmas “Tree of Hope” in its lobby, is asking individuals and businesses to come in and pick a card which gives just the age and gender of one intended recipient.

Donors are then asked to choose an age-appropriate present and drop it back to the hotel by December 20.

The presents, which City Impact can gift-wrap, will then be dropped off by the church, community groups or hotel staff to their chosen recipients on the night of December 23.

“It’s a really exciting initiative,” City Impact pastor Dean Payn says.

“The whole idea is to help those who are either financially struggling or who for whatever reason could just do with a bit of Christmas cheer.

“They may have been through a crisis this year or they’re really quite lonely or elderly and don’t have a lot of people around them,” Payn says.

“It’s a great way for the community to pull together and say, hey, we really do care.”

So far the church, after approaching 47 organisations including camping grounds, schools and community groups, has identified more than 100 needy souls already.

In 2007, when the Christmas cheer campaign was last run, about 130 people received gifts but the target’s been upped this time.

“Anybody can nominate anybody,” Payn says.

The appeal didn’t run last year “because there seemed to be a few different [charity] Christmas trees around”, he says.

“But they were all run from out of town and we just realised that whole need got totally missed out.”

Regarding the choice of gifts, Payn has some advice:

“We want people to choose something that’s not [soiled] or second-hand.

“But it’s not about the value, it’s about the thought and care behind it.”

Sofitel sales and marketing boss Tanya Dennis says hotel staff are excited about the appeal.

“It’s something that will be ongoing for us, definitely.

“From a social responsibility perspective, I think it’s great to be able to give back to the community, particularly at a time like this,” Dennis says.