FOR struggling Canberra families, Christmas can hit “like a ton of bricks,” says volunteer Ron Batt.
“Everybody else is having a wonderful time, and suddenly it’s in your face, as soon as you turn the television on or walk out the door,” he says.
Last year Ron launched Canberra’s Basket Brigade, a group of volunteers who anonymously deliver hampers of food and goods to people in need during the Christmas period.
The rules are simple: volunteers can never reveal their name to recipients, instead leaving a card that reads: “This is a gift from someone who cares about you.”
“It’s no strings attached, and these people don’t know where or who it’s come from – that’s what I love about it,” enthuses Ron, who is also an education and development officer at Rowing Australia.
“The whole thing is about giving and showing that someone out there cares about you.”
In the brigade’s inaugural year, volunteers delivered over 100 baskets decorated with Christmas-themed paintings by students at Evatt’s Miles Franklin Primary School. Names and addresses of recipients were put forward by local charities, church ministers or other members of the community.
“In a city like Canberra, there’s so many people struggling that people know about – and it doesn’t have to be people struggling financially, it’s people who have just lost their partner, going through a divorce, or dealing with a death in the family,” Ron says.
The brigade, which survives solely on donations, is run by the Magic Moments foundation, a Sydney-based, non-profit organisation formed to create a coalition of volunteers who aim to reach and assist people forgotten by society. There are currently 10 Basket Brigades around Australia.
Ron says while there is usually “plenty of emotion” when he drops off the hampers, one particular delivery stands out in his mind.
“I had a mother who opened the door with her kids beside her – the kids didn’t have a lot of clothes on and she looked very tired and drawn,” he says.
“When she saw me with the basket she just burst into tears without saying a word and gave me this huge, big hug. She was expecting a miserable Christmas before that… it was just a lovely moment.”
Canberra’s Basket Brigade are urgently seeking volunteers or donations before their packing day on December 14. Visit magicmoments.org.au/act-canberra-basket-brigade/ to help.