It’s been happening forever, or so it seems – the annual call to donate or collect food items and toys for those who need Anglicare’s services around Christmas time.
However, as with everything else in 2020, Toys ’n’ Tucker is going to be a bit different this year. The donating, the collecting, the packing and the distributing have all needed to change to become COVID safe. Even some of the people receiving help are different.
“This year with COVID there’s no way in the world we could doorknock!” says the Rev Denis Oliver, rector of Mortdale and Peakhurst, whose church has been involved in T’n’T for more than 20 years. “We could sit out front of the shopping centre, but I think people would be reluctant [to engage with us] – and I think some of our people would be reluctant, too.”
He adds that this year, the goal is “one family helps one family: I told my parish, we want to help the local primary school. They said they want 10 hampers… so I’m looking for 10 families to help 10 families.
“I’ve already got rid of 10 boxes and we haven’t even [officially] kicked off! It’s not rocket science – that’s the best part about it. You’re given a list and a box. How hard is that?”
The program manager for Toys ’n’ Tucker, Nathan Moulds, says this year Anglicare is looking to fill 6000 food hampers – about 1000 more than usual – plus 4500 toy hampers.
The need is greater because the economic hardship linked to COVID has driven more people to seek help. In addition, some parishes and people that would normally give, or get involved, have reduced capacity or funds this year.
One example of this is the group collection points for T’n’T donations: 250 churches, schools and businesses are needed – and by late October, Anglicare usually has 150 of them registered. Yet, Mr Moulds says, by the same time this year there were only 80 registrations.
“People are leaving things till later because COVID has changed the way we plan and think about time. We recognise that some people are waiting to see what happens... but we’re committed to this target and want to be confident that we can meet the needs in the community.”
“Being involved is easy... pack a box, help a family. Make a difference.”
In addition to collection points, 800 volunteers are needed to help sort food and pack hampers in Villawood. The need to be COVID safe with packing and social distancing means this will officially begin on November 2, a fortnight earlier than usual. Hampers will then be quarantined for another two weeks, just to be on the safe side.
“There’s a need for people to consider how to be creative in the way they give, and consider alternatives,” Mr Moulds says. “If they can give less in material aid donations, they may be more able to give time or talent or capacity. There’s a need on both fronts.”
For him, being generous at Christmas – particularly when times are hard – is a mirror of God’s own generosity to us in sending Jesus.
“This idea that God doesn’t abandon humanity in our suffering, that he takes on flesh, is born as a baby and steps into our world with all of the grief and the pain and hardship, is pretty radical,” he says.
“One of the small ways we try to extend that radical generosity is through hampers and gifts. A hamper doesn’t transform someone’s life... but what people don’t forget is that sense of care and love and connection they experience. It can open people up to considering the love of God, and perhaps interacting with churches or our staff in a deeper way.”
Adds Mr Oliver: “Being involved is easy and accessible and it’s meaningful. You’re packing a box, man! And each box represents a family. To me that’s a tangible thing: pack a box, help a family. Make a difference.”
Six ways you can get involved with Toys ’n’ Tucker:
- Register your church, business or school as a group collection point (see www.toysntucker.org.au)
- Become one of the 800 volunteers needed to sort through donations and pack boxes at Villawood
- Buy food or toys/gifts to donate. Gifts are particularly welcome for teenagers (ideas include toiletries or gift cards from a sports store, cinema or music/DVD shop
- Donate funds through the T’n’T website
- Help out at a group collection point
- Pray for COVID safety for all involved, and for the many families who will be helped this year