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Christmas spirit: Jennifer Newton, Karen Meiring de Gonsalez, Maria Zuschmann, Marnie and Vanessa Smith, (front row) Monique Field and Brooke Holmes. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Three car loads of presents have been delivered just in time for Christmas morning to brighten the lives of the Illawarra’s most vulnerable children.

Shellharbour businesses, led by chiropractor Maria Zuschmann, have been collecting presents and raising funds all month for Barnardos Australia.

Children from all backgrounds will now have gifts to open Christmas morning.

Dr Maria, from Inner Edge Wellness, said the Smiles for Santa campaign placed the spotlight on those in need.

“This year was our third year supporting Barnardo’s South Coast at Christmas. We started small the first year and it has grown each year, with more local businesses coming on board to help at such an important time of year,’’ she said.

‘’Amazingly, we learned that while Barnardos Australia have corporate sponsors, we are the only local businesses supporting Barnardo’s South Coast.

‘’Another scary statistic is that 30 per cent of kids in the area are so far below the poverty line that they are not being fed breakfast before going to school, ’’ she said.

‘’Between our movie screening and $25 donation from each Initial visit at Inner Edge Wellness, we raised a total of $2020 and we would love to do more next year.

‘’Plus we had three cars loads of pressies with hundreds of gifts combined between all of the collection points,’’ Dr Maria said.

Jennifer Newton from Barnardo’s South Coast said the work Dr Maria and the other business had done went a long way to help people living in poverty.

‘’We are dealing with kids that don’t have what most people think is the basics of life,’’ Ms Newton said.

‘’These children don’t necessarily get a present or they miss out on lunch or dinner. When you live in poverty you can’t give presents and lunch, it’s one or the other,’’ she said.

‘’It’s the reality for many children within the Illawarra, it’s not an uncommon story, it’s a very common one.

"Another scary statistic is that 30 per cent of kids in the area are so far below the poverty line that they are not being fed breakfast before going to school - Maria Zuschmann"

Businesses who lent a hand, collecting gifts and raising money, were: Skin Correctives, F45 Training Shellharbour, Mary Kay, McGrath Kiama, PCYC Illawarra and Dynamic Balance Massage & Fitness.

(This article was first published in the Illawarra Mercury and was written by Cydonee Mardon.)

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