It’s six days before santa’s scheduled arrival and the Mullumbimby Neighbourhood Centre is in a state of controlled Christmas chaos.
As the regular Wednesday jam group belts out John Lennon’s And so this is Christmas, about 40 locals sit on the grass enjoying a free festive lunch, while another 20 patiently wait to be served.
On the street out front, staff and volunteers are helping to unload a ute-load of goodies from an anonymous donor.
As Centre coordinator Leseera Kai takes a quick break in the relative calm of her office, she reflects on the incredible wave of donations that have poured in over the past few weeks.
‘This community is amazing – I tear up when I think about how generous they are,’ she says.
‘People really want to give, they just need a vehicle to do it through, to help make it happen.’
Among the many acts of generosity this year is the donation of $3,000 worth of gift cards from a grassroots community drive organised by a local school teacher.
‘She basically took it upon herself to create a gift card drive,’ Ms Kai says of the teacher, Amanda Webber.
Ms Webber set up donation points at her home and Brunswick Heads cafe Jones & Co and then used Facebook to spread the word.
The idea caught fire, with scores of cards pouring in from across the local area and as far afield as Israel and Canada.
‘We’ve never had such a generous donation of gift cards, people really got behind the cause,’ Ms Kai says.
‘Gift cards are brilliant because they give people that dignity to choose what they want.
‘People who are vulnerable or marginalised often have a feeling of not being in control of their lives. A gift card gives them the power to get the toy their child has been asking for all year, or just to eat what they want on Christmas Day.’
Other donors this year include the Presbyterian Church at Mullumbimby, Rotary, Bunnings, the Brunswick Heads Surf Club, Goonengerry Public School, and a local group called Nourishment Network which donated six family sized boxes of organic food from local producers.
Hampers, toys and gift cards are available for locals in need through the Centre’s community support program.
‘Basically you just need to show up and ask for community support and we’ll help you,’ Ms Kai says.
Back on the grass next to the centre, locals are feasting on healthy salads, ham and roast beef cooked by volunteers using ingredients sourced from local supermarkets through the Food Recovery program.
Food Recovery rescues edible food that is no longer wanted by the supermarkets for use by local neighbourhood centres.
Every week from Monday to Thursday neighbourhood centre staff member Mel Williams and a team of volunteers serve up nutritious, tasty lunches to the community.
This time they’ve pulled out all the stops. There are five salads, multiple meat and vegetarian options, and pavlova and cakes for dessert.
As lunch draws to a close, the jam group’s numbers swell and they break into the Rolling Stones classic You can’t always get what you want.
If today is anything to go by, just occasionally, in Mullumbimby, you can.
Mullumbimby District Neighbourhood Centre is open until 4pm on December 21 and is located at 55 Daley Street, Mullumbimby.