Give local this Christmas

Penrith City Gazette

Settling back into Penrith after a period of leave, it hasn’t taken long to be reminded about what makes the region great. Top of the list is the wonderful giving nature of the people who work and live here. I saw this in spades during the Heading Home – Ending Homelessness Here campaign, where the community spirit of giving both time and resources was exceptional, and everyone went above and beyond to help people experiencing homelessness, from the 5am starts in Penrith’s city centre to the volunteers who trekked through the bush in the Blue Mountains.


Placing gifts under the giving tree at Penrith RSL with Gai Hawthorn of Penrith CBD Corporation

I have felt encouraged by the sense of connectedness amongst people wanting to make a difference in our local community. Some of those working to make change have been community leaders, from politicians to local business operators. So in the lead up to Christmas I have asked them what it means to give at this special time of the year –

The state politician

Reflecting on Christmas and the community he advocates for in NSW Parliament, the State Member for Penrith, Stuart Ayres, said “the build up towards Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. Great for reflecting on the past year and remembering what is important to all of us. It is also the time of year when those less fortunate in our community often feel particularly helpless. Thankfully, the people of Penrith with their sense of community and generosity step up at this time and offer their support. Donations of gifts, food or funds or by purchasing charitable greeting cards all goes towards giving the vulnerable hope in their time of need and making the Christmas season just that little bit brighter.”

The business leader

Making the Christmas season brighter is exactly what Gai Hawthorn of Penrith CBD Corporation sets out to do. You only have to step into her office for five minutes to see the buzz she creates through her important community work. This year, together with Penrith Community Kitchen, Gai is hosting a Christmas lunch at Penrith PCYC on 23 December for people experiencing homelessness, and is calling on the community to volunteer to help put on the lunch for almost 300 people. Donations are also welcome to go towards the lunch and relief hampers for those in need.

The Penrith RSL and Rotary are also behind helping people experiencing homelessness at Christmas, with donations of gifts under their Christmas tree which stands in the foyer of the Penrith RSL.   “The Penrith business community’s ‘Give where you Live’ truly is a Christmas message of which they are proud,” said Gai.

The not-for-profit CEO

Wentworth Community Housing CEO, Stephen McIntyre, has seen the great support amongst the Penrith community when it comes to ending homelessness. Stephen said “our Heading Home – Ending Homelessness Here project has recently provided information on the many people who are experiencing homelessness in our local community. Christmas as a time of giving highlights the importance of the community coming together to support vulnerable people, and finding solutions to homelessness. At the top of the list is more safe and secure housing.”

Local leadership forms only a piece of Penrith’s great commitment to charitable giving and volunteering. There are many more people out and about each day working hard to make a difference, and they will continue to do this throughout the festive season.

Through all the work conducted across Penrith by the many organisations, businesses and volunteers, the common theme of community spirit and giving is a positive indicator of a connected community, and it is clear that Penrith is working together on similar goals, and that helping people in need is at the top of the Christmas list.

The local mayor

Penrith Mayor John Thain expressed this in his thoughts on what giving means at Christmas. Clr Thain said “there is something magical about Christmas time. It gives us a chance to pause and look beyond gift shopping, Christmas menus and end of year parties. Christmas is a time that brings people together in the spirit of harmony and happiness. It’s a time to look back and give thanks – for our families, our friends and our good fortune, no matter how big or small. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone in our community.”

This article by Melissa Grah-McIntosh was originally published in the Penrith City Gazette as Community’s spirit shines through

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