17 Dec 2018

Hawke's Bay volunteers prepare to spread some Christmas cheer

10:58 am on 17 December 2018

One of Hawke's Bay's poorest communities is showing it is rich in festive spirit as it prepares to feed hundreds of people from all over the region this Christmas.

No caption

Havelock North Primary School students have donated hundreds of presents to be distributed by volunteers at Flaxmere's Pataka Kai outside Lynsey Abbott's (Santa hat) home. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

Flaxmere's Pataka Kai, or community food pantry, has been a roaring success since it opened earlier this year outside Lynsey Abbott's home on Livingstone Road.

On Christmas Eve, Ms Abbott and a group of volunteers will hand out hundreds of presents and 150 large platters of food for struggling families to take home to share over Christmas.

"We've got ham, chicken, potatoes and salads. All the food has been provided by Flaxmere New World and local businesses," Ms Abbott said.

Families from all over Hawke's Bay would be helped, she said.

"We have a working mum up in Starship whose child is very unwell and the dad is here with the rest of the children. We have grandparents who are raising 11 grandchildren ... we have great grandparents raising great grandchildren ... and families who are struggling to pay their rent because it is too high, and these are working families."

All up around 250 people, including 120 children will be provided with food and presents for Christmas Day.

No caption

Toni Te Whaiti, Lynsey Abbott, Sofia Rotonda and Chris Hart. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

New World Flaxmere owner Chris Hart said many of his suppliers were also keen to contribute once they got wind of the project.

"A lot of it has come from the support of the community as well and suppliers are very keen to help out. I just had a phone call from a boysenberry supplier, he heard what Lynsey was doing and would love to donate some berries. And others are doing the same," Mr Hart said.

Havelock North Primary School teacher Toni Te Whaiti said a group of students came up with the idea after learning about the student volunteer army in Christchurch and then hearing about Lynsey's Christmas plans.

Ten-year-old student Sofia Rotondi said it had been a great experience.

"We went round our whole school and asked for donations and luckily our school is very kind and they helped us. It's such a great thing what Lynsey is doing," Miss Rotondi said.

Ms Abbott, who also runs One Voice Community Services from her home, said she had been in contact with Work and Income and other social services so they let people who needed help know about the Christmas food on offer.

"We will feed them all. Anyone who turns up on the night, won't be turned away," she said.

Festivities at the Pataka Kai on Livingstone Road, Flaxmere will kick off from 6:30pm on 24 December.