Christmas hasn’t always been that festive for Jill*.
“I actually spent one Christmas eating two-minute noodles,” she said.
With the help of Wesley Mission Victoria’s annual Food for Families appeal, which marks its 25th anniversary this year, Jill now has a Christmas to look forward to.
“I wouldn’t be having one without them,” she said.
“I love Christmas here. It actually made my Christmas. I came in and got a nice big fresh ham, it was wonderful.”
Jill is 57 and living on a disability pension while receiving treatment for breast cancer.
After rent, car and phone costs are deducted she is left with about $150 for groceries and any other expenses for the week.
While sometimes this is enough, Wesley comes to her aid when it isn’t.
“Every now and again when all the bills come in, like this fortnight I’ve got car registration, they help me out with a food parcel which is really wonderful,” Jill said.
“Especially the cleaning products really add up to big bills. Those shopping days are nightmares.”
Jill has two adult children and has been single since she fled a violent marriage in the 1980s. She still lives in fear of her former partner.
“I’d rather him not know where I am,” she said.
After leaving the marriage Jill found that she couldn’t afford to live by herself in Melbourne as many landlords and agents are unwilling to rent to pensioners, so she moved to the country.
Over the past five years Jill’s need for cancer treatment, as well as her mother’s deteriorating health, have meant regular trips to the city.
Paying for petrol to drive to Melbourne and lodging left Jill without enough money for food, so at these times Wesley’s food parcels were a “godsend”.
“They don’t judge you. Whereas everyday people judge big time,” Jill said.
Jill’s older sister Jenny, 65, also is looking forward to a Christmas dinner with the help of Wesley’s food parcels.
Jenny has also struggled over the years to find affordable accommodation.
At one stage she lived in a car for two weeks, until her adult daughter found out and invited her to live with her.
“I didn’t want to tell anyone. I was too embarrassed,” she said.
Jenny turned to Wesley for help.
“They picked me up and I’m back living. I’ve got a little house and everything,” she said.
Jenny said she will pop into Wesley’s food centre on occasion to see what is on the shelves but “only when I really need it”.
“There’s a lot of people worse off than me,’ she said.
However, she will again make use of the Christmas food parcels, which have previously helped her stage a family dinner with her children and grandkids.
Wesley is again appealing for individuals, families or groups to help those in need by filling a collection bag or box with donations of non-perishable food and toiletries in the lead up to Christmas.
For information on how to donate food as well as other contributions, go to the Wesley Mission Victoria website.
*Both Jill and Jenny’s real names have been withheld at their request.