Playing Santa this Christmas … from left, Target employees Michelle Witkowski and Brooke Darr;  UnitingCare program manager Sarah Franciosa-Jones, Sue Mortimer (Uniting Church),  Mia Thompson (Target) and store manager Amanda Parnell 

November 20, 2013

Christmas is getting closer, which means the demand on local family support services is also getting more urgent.

UnitingCare has joined forces with the Target Country store in Kingaroy to provide shoppers with an easy way to help South Burnett families this Christmas.

The store, located in the SupaIGA carpark, is erecting a special Christmas Tree as part of “Operation Santa”.

Shoppers can take a gift tag from the tree and donate a gift for someone in need. They can also donate a gift card by selecting a dollar amount tag from the tree and taking it to the cash register.

UnitingCare Program Manager for South Burnett Services Sarah Franciosa-Jones said UnitingCare would allocate the presents to families, wrap them and then distribute them.

The group operates several local programs, including a Women’s Refuge and a safe house. It also handles referrals for assistance and runs a family support program.

“Currently we probably have up to 60 families that we are working with,” Sarah said.

“And we have up to 12 families at any one time in the refuges.”

She said most were women who had been targets of domestic violence or were at risk of homelessness.

UnitingCare is also running a community recovery program which is supporting families which were affected by the floods earlier this year.

Sarah said there were 30 families who were currently having ongoing support.

However the group had also been working on a four-month project to reach out to more rural families.

“In October, we door-knocked 245 families to see if they needed ongoing support,” she said.

Many needed assistance but had no idea where to turn to, despite all the publicity from local agencies, the State Government and local councils.

“We found people who didn’t know there was any assistance available,” Sarah said.

Operation Santa local co-ordinator Susan Mortimer, from the Uniting Church, said this was the fourth year that Target Country in Kingaroy had run the project in conjunction with UnitingCare.

Across Australia, the program has been running for 22 years. This year UnitingCare and Target are aiming to collect 100,000 gifts and $200,000 in gift cards nationwide to assist about 60,000 families.

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