The countdown to Christmas has begun, but for many Penrith families the festive season brings additional stress and financial hardship.
Fortunately, local charities and support networks are quietly working through the holiday season to ease the burden.
Nicole Devine, from Community Junction Inc, is ensuring that locals know who to connect with if they need help, encouraging them to reach out and ask.
“People don’t realise that there is a lot of support,” she said.
“They don’t know where to go to access things. Because our community organisations are often part-time, we sort of slip through the sideline.
“People need to know that they are there and they are ready to support whoever needs help.”
Ms Devine said despite common misconceptions, you don’t need to walk in with bills or paperwork to prove you need support, you simply need to ask for help.
“There’s a lot of embarrassment for families in particular, the focus goes on their children and adults get forgotten about at Christmas time,” she said.
“It’s OK to access these services, they’re out there for a reason, they’re out there to support people.”
Local meal and support services offer Christmas lunches or hampers that are delivered to help reduce stress on struggling families through organisations including Mama Lana’s Community Foundation, Ross Hutchison Foundation and Anglicare.
“Most families need two incomes right now just to survive. Christmas just puts that extra pressure on everyone,” Ms Devine said.
“So many people have said their electricity prices have jumped from $300 up to $600 or $700. At Christmas time, how are they supposed to find that money as well as buying all this Christmas stuff?
“As a society, we are expected to stay within good graces and keep up appearances. Christmas is all about the kids, but if you don’t have the money for that, a lot of emotions can get internalised and it compounds from there.”
Ms Devine said the best way to help the community is for different organisations and businesses to get together to help find a solution.
Community Junction Inc are accepting donations to their annual food and toy drive at all sites. For more information, visit www.communityjunction.org.au.
Emily Newton is the Weekender’s police and political reporter. Emily is also the Weekender’s Senior Journalist.