Gift of giving returns to Lilydale

Leading Senior Constable Luke Egginton, Harrow and Harvest owner Frazer, Rotary members Gerry Van Horick, Anne Van Horick and Cheryl McKay, Anchor's Lauren Gordon and Peter Dinsdale joined together for the launch of the Wishing Tree project. Picture: MIKAYLA VAN LOON.

By Mikayla Van Loon

It’s that time of year again as the Rotary Club of Lilydale launches its Wishing Tree project for the third year in a row, seeing it grow in size each time.

Having started with just 14 businesses who put their hands up to collect presents, project organiser Gerry Van Horick said that has since doubled to 30 businesses this year.

With the community engagement growing in the project, so too is the need to provide presents at Christmas to young people living in transitional housing or who just need an extra boost in support.

That’s why Rotary has partnered once more with Anchor and the Yarra Ranges Proactive Policing Unit, to spread joy across the region to those who might be needing it the most.

Anchor’s partnership and development lead Lauren Gordon said with a new additional program supporting young people and children, they too will be provided with a present this year, expanding the need for donations.

Even the families who haven’t yet hit the crisis point of needing to be supported through housing or other services have been added to Anchor’s list.

“So the families who are in motel accommodation or may hit a crisis around Christmas time, we don’t know who they are yet but we’d like to be prepared to have some things for them,” Ms Gordon said.

The staff at Anchor over the last few months have been collecting ideas for presents for Rotary to create a tag system, so that gifts reach various age demographics and interests based on what has been asked for or mentioned by the kids themselves.

“On the tags are things like a Christmas tree or decorations. We never expected a kid in their teens to ask for a Christmas tree,” Mr Van Horick said.

“So it shows they’re not only thinking about themselves but their family too.”

Leading Senior Constable Luke Egginton said the presents will go to those who are part of some of the leadership programs police run, particularly in the 14 to 16 age group, as well as those the schools identify as needing some extra support.

“We’re getting into a lot of the schools at the moment and we’re having targeted programs for kids that are struggling and the school promotes it more as a leadership program,” he said.

“Not all kids are struggling, some kids that are doing well and are seen as leaders but there’s also kids that are seen as leaders in a negative light so they try to put them in this program to make them positive leaders.”

Children’s House of Early Learning Mount Evelyn owner Cheryl McKay has not only seen the positive impact a present can have on those that receive it but also on the giver.

“The kids love it and the kids get involved and the kids understand that they’re giving something to people who aren’t in the same situation as them,” she said.

Presents for Anchor will be collected by the Rotary Club at the end of November, to ensure they can be handed out at the annual Christmas party in early December.

Vouchers and presents for the Proactive Policing Unit will be collected in early December.

Supporting businesses include Genesis Health and Fitness, Cire Chirnside Park, Yarra Junction and Lilydale, Harrow and Harvest, The Running Company, Evelyn Ridge Retirement Village and many more across the Yarra Ranges.