The Christmas spirit is truly alive and well in Newcastle, with the community banding together to help a family in need this festive season.
A vast network of Newcastle-based volunteers with the national domestic violence support charity, Friends With Dignity, work tirelessly year-round to create ‘sanctuaries’ for families leaving crisis centres and refuges with little more than the clothes on their backs.
Volunteers reach out to supporters via the Friends with Dignity Facebook page to source specific furniture, linen, white goods and other household items to turn empty shells into homes.
However, co-ordinating sanctuaries so close to Christmas can prove difficult with volunteers also having families of their own to look after.
When Friends with Dignity Newcastle Team Leader, Jo-anne received the call that a family was preparing to leave refuge for their new home, she was concerned she would be unable to turn around a sanctuary at such short notice at this very busy time of year.
“Many volunteers are away at this time of year, and I was worried that supporters would be too busy with the festive season to pull together what was needed to create the sanctuary,” said Jo-anne.
“I was hoping maybe I could source a bed and a few bits and pieces so this family would at least not be sleeping on blow-up mattresses over Christmas.”
Jo-anne had an idea to post a call-out at a local community Facebook page, hoping maybe a couple of people would be willing to donate some household goods and furniture lying around.
However, the hardworking volunteer was instead met with an overwhelming response from members of the local Newcastle community, and as a result of her call-out had almost completley filled the new home overnight.
“I received a call from a woman who I believe was out doing her own Christmas shopping, and instead filled her entire trolley with laundry supplies for this family she had never met,” said Jo-anne.
“To have a group of people so quickly come together who not only have never donated to Friends With Dignity before, but possibly had never even heard of the charity, was just amazing – it truly brought tears to my eyes.
“I am so proud of the strong community spirit here in Newcastle, and its big heart and even bigger Christmas spirit.
“Some might even say this is Newcastle’s very own version of a Christmas miracle!”
Friends with Dignity is a national not-for-profit volunteer-based charity working with crisis centres and refuges, providing assistance to men, women and children who have been displaced by domestic violence.