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Think Local

It's a time when communities and organisations come together, decorate houses and streets and prepare for holidays and family get-togethers.

The spirit of Christmas is often most pronounced among our younger generation, who like Middle Harbour Public School students, enthusiastically embrace the 'spirit of giving' and thoughts for others.

The spirit of giving

Nine-year-old Grace Durrant and other Middle Harbour students have been busy decorating their school garden with Christmas trees and tinsel. The festive decorations have kids thinking about Christmas.

"I think Christmas is about giving," Grace tells North Shore Living.

"I like to donate my toys that I have grown out of to a charity because I know they will get a good home and another little girl will enjoy them. I think ifs much nicer that they are being loved by someone else rather than sitting in my cupboard getting dusty."

She says her family also like to support local and international charities - especially at Christmas. "We sponsor two children in Ethiopia who are the same age as my brother and I and we send photos to each other to keep in touch. One day I would definitely like to meet them," she smiles.

Grace says the 'spirit of giving' is really about not wanting anything in return.

"It's really important to share with others that are less fortunate and not make a big fuss about it."

Fellow students Lucy Brownlie and Marni Alameddine are also adamant that Christmas is about helping others.

"I used to visit a lady on our street who was lonely," says Lucy. "More important than presents at Christmas is the chance to catch up with family and friends and give love and happiness."

"I think everyone should do more for others," adds Marni. "Helping the homeless at Christmas would be a good way."

Santa's workshop

Men's Shed members throughout the North Shore will be donning their Santa hats this year, making and repairing toys and presents and helping hospitals and charities prepare for the Christmas season.

The movement, which now has over 1000 sheds across Australia and nearly 200,000 individuals who regularly use the facilities, is committed to the philosophy that men's health and engagement is being enhanced by taking part in these activities.

Mosman Men's Shed supervisor Steve Morato, says many people are building toys for themselves or others and a recent project has seen the building of important physiotherapy equipment for Randwick Children's Hospital.

“We have been involved in on-going projects for the hospital which help with recovery for the children," he says. “We have also made flagpoles for local churches and art tables for the Mosman Art Society. Another recent project has involved re-fitting and fixing 300 belts for Matthew Talbot and repairing beds for the homeless." The Men's Shed, which is located at Georges Heights, has a mentoring program with members ranging from 14 to 92 years of age.

Offering a Lifeline

The Christmas season can be a difficult one for those in need. Many of the problems that arise during the year are exacerbated at Christmas, when many people feel lonely and disconnected from others.

This is a time when our charities are asked to come to the rescue time and time again.

Lifeline North Shore offers a 24-hour telephone crisis support service and this can be especially busy during the Christmas and holiday season. The organisation also offers year round personal and financial counselling, support groups, a community visitors scheme and stress management workshops.

According to Lifeline North Shore CEO Cate Sinclair, Christmas is a time when the feelings of loneliness can be heightened, sometimes because families cannot afford to celebrate or buy gifts for children.

"The feelings of loss can lead to depression and a sense of vulnerability," she tells North Shore Living.

“When you are feeling like this you can't engage in the community or walk in the park and we know there is always an increase in calls to us at this time.

"Christmas is not always happy. It's lovely if you know people who are feeling sad to invite them into your family and include them in the celebrations."

Other charities like the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul also come to the fore during the Christmas period.

The Salvations Army’s vital work each year includes 100,000 meals for the hungry, 2000 beds for the homeless, 3000 aged care services for the elderly, 800 food vouchers and refuge for 500 victims of abuse.

Supporting the charity stores is an important way of raising much needed funds for all the services needed.

Christmas carols unite

This year, children from primary schools on the North Shore, in conjunction with the Inter-Church Council will entertain at local twilight markets.

Organiser and choirmaster Dr Helen Bendall, says the Christmas carols for children aged from six to ten years is growing in popularity with the events eagerly awaited by the community.

"It‘s a beautiful occasion," she tells North Shore Living.

"The children really love dressing up as angels and shepherds and when we are all together at the markets it’s standing room only.

“We always have so many who want to take part. I love seeing the children's faces and It’s the true story of Christmas.”

Dr Bendall says they “pour their hearts and souls“ into the occasion.

"It certainly makes the Christmas season magical."

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