Julie Richardson, of Dunedin, says having children of her
own prompted her to spread cheer at Christmas by donating
gifts to those less fortunate through the Kmart Wishing
Tree Appeal, which she has done for the past 17 years.
Photo by Peter Mcintosh.
Julie Richardson makes a big difference in the lives of
Dunedin's littlest each Christmas.
She buys gifts year-round to place under the Kmart Wishing
Tree, and this season has given 31 presents to the appeal.
Mrs Richardson said the birth of her twins, James and
Breeana, 17 years ago was the catalyst for her generosity.
''Their first Christmas, they were spoilt rotten by friends
and family, so I gave some of their presents away because
they were so overladen. I don't think it's until you've kids
of your own that you realise other kids might not be so
well-off, and it all stemmed from there.''
She involved her children in the annual appeal once they were
old enough, and said the twins, as teenagers, continued to
help choose gifts for Kmart's tree. Mrs Richardson has honed
her gift selection skills over the years and stuck to certain
criteria, as well as a $7 limit for each item.
''It has to be practical and relevant. I try to find things
kids are into. I also try to stay away from family gifts,
like games, because I never know where my presents are going
and don't want to give a game that needs four people which
ends up in a family of two or three.''
She also made sure to insert batteries in toys, if they were
not already included.
''There's nothing worse than a kid getting a present they
can't play with straight away.''
Mrs Richardson said she often bought things when they were on
sale and collected both boys' and girls' gifts for any age
between 5 and 13.
''I know myself that teenagers are fussy, and by that age
they've kind of outgrown Santa. Christmas really is all about
the kids, but I still think it's the best time of year -
absolutely!''Finding inexpensive gifts was easy, if you took
the time to shop around, she said.
''You can buy really good stuff for under $7 and it makes a
big difference to children who don't have much. I often add
simple things like colouring pencils and paper to make craft
packs, or include bubbles and water balloons to make things a
bit more fun.''
To date this season, just over 1000 gifts have been donated
to Kmart's Dunedin store in the Meridian mall, and appeal
organisers hoped the target of 4500 presents would be reached
The Salvation Army will collect all gifts from the store and
distribute them to families throughout Otago on Christmas
Last year, Otago residents gave 3803 presents through the
appeal, which has been held nationwide for the past 19 years.
Presents did not have to be bought from Kmart, or wrapped,
and could be handmade.
Cash donations were used to give appeal recipients vouchers.