St Vincent de Paul Wellington has temporarily converted their office at Riddiford Street in Newtown into a one-of-a-kind toy shop where parents can get presents for their children for free.
SVdP Wellington communications and marketing development manager Millie Lambess said the project called “A Merry Vinnies Christmas” aims to give families “the Christmas shopping experience without the cost”.
The toy shop opened on December 3 and will remain open until the 21st or until stocks run out.
“In the first three days, we’ve had 32 families come through and they’ve been able to pick presents for 74 children. That’s just in three days,” she said.
“It’s been really busy with a nice atmosphere. Everyone has been joyful. They really enjoyed the process of being able to go in and pick the presents,” she added.
The parents were asked to book a time slot and given 20 minutes to browse and shop. There is a wrapping station where they can get paper, stickers and ribbons and wrap their kids’ presents.
Miss Lambess said in the past years, the Vinnies usually did a toy drive. The toys were wrapped and marked as to whether it is appropriate for a “boy” or “girl” and the age of the child. The gifts were then distributed to people at the Food Bank.
“This time, we are giving them the chance to take a bit of ownership over the present by picking out exactly what they want. They know that it is something that their kids would like. And it still feels that it is coming from them rather than from charity,” she said.
Miss Lambess said they started collecting new toy donations in November. The majority of the donations came from the general public who heard about their initiative. Some firms, particularly chartered accountants, did internal collections in their offices.
“We were getting a box from them every few days,” she said.
The New Zealand Defence Force also did an internal collection of donated toys.
Miss Lambess said the toy shop is still accepting donations of toys for children aged 0 to 16. The toys must be unwrapped. They can be dropped off to the Vinnies Newtown office.
“We’re still happy to accept late presents because it means we can get the shop topped up,” she said. “Everything that’s left over, we have places that we will be giving them onto that are doing their own Christmas initiatives.”
She said the Vinnies have connections to various community groups and social housing complexes that they can pass the left overs onto.
“The aim is to have all those presents distributed before Christmas,” she said.