Surge in demand expected as Vinnies Xmas Appeal gets underway

Clare Van Doorn and the Vinnies Christmas Appeal are ready to help locals again this year.


THE impact of COVID-19 on people’s daily needs has been unpredictable and the figures are hard to interpret considering the absence and reduction of face to face assistance provided.

According to the North East Regional Director of St Vincent de Paul Society, Clare van Doorn, while requests for help have decreased there are no signs that disadvantage in the area is lessening.

“The number of locals seeking help with essentials such as food, medicines, transport, electricity bills and rental costs is currently down,” Ms Van Doorn told News of The Area.

“These numbers are less than early in the year because face-to-face contact has been limited, so people may be less likely to get in touch.

“That said, we can easily be reached by phone, and vouchers and goods can be made available for pickup, or processed electronically.”

The St Augustine’s conference (support service) in Coffs Harbour had 89 contacts in the recent quarter, with a total of 150 across all the Orara conferences.

“Higher government support payments have made a difference to people living on the financial margins – for now, at least,” Ms Van Doorn noted.

“However, this doesn’t equate to long-term change, and the socio-economic problems affecting the region remain.

“These include high unemployment, low wages and difficulty of finding affordable rental accommodation, and the high cost.”

The North East Regional Director expects the numbers to increase, especially as the holiday season approaches.

Vinnies annual Christmas Appeal is ready to help families where necessary, and with the support of local schools and other donors, members are preparing Christmas hampers from non-perishable food items and toys.

“In this way we can help bring some festive joy to families struggling to afford even the necessities, let alone Christmas treats for their kids.

“The annual Vinnies Christmas Appeal is also a vital help at this time of year,” said Ms Van Doorn.

Demand from people who are homeless or struggling to get by has been rising at Vinnies Pete’s Place drop-in service in Coffs Harbour, which last month had 940 visits from people seeking help.

The service is based at the Neighbourhood Centre precinct and provides light meals, showers and laundry, medical care and referral to a range of welfare services.

Service Manager Ann Scott said COVID-19 had impacted badly on already vulnerable people, creating uncertainty and anxiety.

“We’re seeing many new faces,” she said, “and the chronic lack of affordable rental accommodation in Coffs is making things worse.

“When government benefits are reduced I shudder to think of the impacts.”

Pete’s Place is the only service of its kind in the area, and this has been the most challenging year in its relatively short life.

“Amidst all the challenges, we are so grateful for the support we have received from the local community, both financially and in donated goods.

“We know Pete’s Place is making a big impact on people’s lives, helping them recover some personal dignity, locate the services they need and move towards resuming their place in mainstream society.”

Donations to the Vinnies Christmas Appeal are tax deductible and can be made at


By Sandra MOON

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