Two members of the Echuca Uniting Church have been recognised for their part in organising the UnitingCare Christmas Appeal ‘Operation Santa’ for the past 10 years. Dawn Howie and Adelle Merrall became involved in the appeal when the previous organisers stood down after many years.
Each year the women deliver Operation Santa gifts personally to some families and individuals but others receive gifts via partnerships established by Ms Howie and Ms Merrall.
“I think the highlight every year is how appreciative the families are for what we share with them. In the last few years we have also worked with a program at our local hospital which has helped provide further lists of families who are very much in need,” Ms Howie said.
The women said Operation Santa had become more urgent after the region suffered the effects of a more than 10-year drought.
“It really started with the drought and it’s continued from there and being able to make a difference has been wonderful,” Ms Merrall said.
After 10 year the two feel it is time to pass on the job of organising the appeal to others and Ms Merrall said the rewards of the appeal were not just one way.
“It’s very fulfilling when you see how people are so grateful. I had one lady say ‘oh you’re an angel’ and I thought, ‘oh I don’t think so’,” she said.
The Christmas Appeal aims to deliver gifts from local people to people in their community. Both women agreed that it was a good to see the community come together to support one another.
“One of the main things is that the work we do is for people here. The items aren’t going somewhere else.
“I think that for people who do it there is a real reward in giving gifts for families who may not be able to get them themselves,” Ms Howie said.