Salvation Army centres around the nation—such as Hobart’s Christmas distribution warehouse—are already at work to make sure those in need experience the joy of the season.
When it comes to getting ready for the Christmas rush, Lynette Stock must be the most organised person in Tasmania.
Lynette heads up a team of more than 60 volunteers who work in The Salvation Army Christmas distribution warehouse in Derwent Park, a north-west suburb of Hobart. This concrete-floored, cavernous area is the starting point to ensure thousands of families around Tasmania and the Bass Strait Islands experience the joy of gifts and food hampers on Christmas Day.
The centre opened for business on 28 November, but planning for this year’s festive season started almost as soon as last year’s decorations were packed away.
“We start work on the coming Christmas as soon as the previous one is finished—we discuss what worked well, what didn’t and how we can improve,” Lynette says.
“By September we’ve booked trucks and vans, organised permits and by October we’ve organised school choirs to sing at Kmart Christmas Wishing Tree launches and begun looking for volunteers. The warehouse gets cleaned up and we start delivering boxes and bags to the businesses and schools that support us with food and toy drives.”
The warehouse is stocked with donations collected by the public in the lead-up to Christmas.
“Our donations come from various sources. The Motorcycle Riders Association South organises a huge toy run each year—more than 5,000 riders participate and the Salvos receive all the toys. The Kmart Wishing Tree is another wonderful initiative, the ABC Giving Tree has provided gifts and the public is very generous,” Lynette says.
“The donations don’t only go to Salvation Army programs. We also distribute to many other centres and organisations.”
Volunteers are vital to the running of the warehouse, with roles including drivers and assistants, toy and food sorters and packers to fill the requests from organisations. The warehouse is set up with trestle tables organised into appropriate ages for toys, with separate sections for books and games, sports equipment, clothing and back-to-school supplies.
“We have two shifts per day, 9.30 am to 12.30 pm and 1 pm to 4 pm. I find three hours on concrete floors is enough if I want volunteers to come back again,” Lynette laughs.
“A typical day begins with an induction and instructions for the shift. The driver and assistant head out to collect gifts from the Kmart Wishing Tree and bring them back for sorting. They may also have to deliver boxes and bags to businesses and centres doing food drives for us and, closer to Christmas, they deliver the filled orders to the organisations that have requested help.
“At the warehouse, as well as filling requests, volunteers unpack the van and count donations before organising them into age-appropriate groups and sorting food to go into hampers.”
It’s a huge logistical exercise, with its share of challenges to work through, but with many rewarding aspects.
“Filling orders within a time frame can be difficult. Some of our deliveries are many hours away and require completion early on when people aren’t quite in the Christmas mode yet and ready to donate,” she says.
“Having to say, ‘Sorry, we can’t help’ is always difficult. And being on my feet all day is a challenge. But I love working with volunteers and I love that we are part of this wonderful organisation bringing hope where it’s needed most.
“By the time the warehouse closes on 21 December, my head is spinning and my bones are sore, but my heart is full.”