It was about two years ago while visiting a friend in Melbourne that Good Samaritan Sister Margaret Mithen stumbled upon a community outreach initiative she felt compelled to support.
Margaret’s friend, Dorothy Leonard, a long-time supporter and member of Rotary, was packing Christmas gifts into shoe boxes to send to farming families living through the difficult years of a long drought.
“I asked Dorothy where she got the gifts from, and she said, ‘from as many avenues as she could’”, explained Margaret.
Inspired by her friend’s commitment to the cause, Margaret wanted to do her bit to help. “I thought to myself, ‘I can do something here. I can collect my fifty-cent pieces and give them to Dorothy to buy whatever she needed to buy’. So I bought a really big money box and started my saving.”
Then Margaret had the idea that there might be others who’d also like to help. “People don’t have to go out and work or collect goods themselves,” she thought. “All they had to do was to save their fifty-cent pieces.”
So in early 2010, Margaret sent out a message to other Good Samaritan Sisters inviting them to join her in collecting fifty-cent pieces to buy Christmas gifts for farming families doing it tough. By the end of that year they had raised over $400.
Remembering Dorothy’s advice – to buy gifts that families wouldn’t usually get for themselves and items that would fit into shoe boxes – Margaret sought the help of fellow Good Samaritan Sister Kristen Guy who operates Arise Natural Therapies, a ministry of the Good Sams committed to holistic care by way of massage, the production of environment-friendly cleaning products as well as natural products for many health needs.
Together they put together small packages of soaps, lotions, lip balm and other pampering-type products that could easily be packaged into small boxes for easy distribution.
Speaking to The Good Oil recently, Dorothy Leonard recalled feeling “overcome” when Margaret presented her last year with the collection of “beautifully presented” gifts for the families. She was amazed that Margaret had made connections with so many people who were willing to help.
“I thought it was wonderful,” she said. “It’s been a real boost to those people [on the land].”
Since about 2005, Rotary has been sending Christmas gifts to drought-affected farming families in Victoria and New South Wales. While the drought has passed, the floods earlier this year are continuing to take their toll on communities.
Dorothy described the gift-giving initiative as a morale booster for the families. She said it was a way of saying to them: “You’ve worked so hard and we’re thinking of you… Good on you, keep it up, we’re behind you”.
Meanwhile, this year Margaret has again co-ordinated a fundraising drive among her sisters and the wider Good Samaritan network of oblates and their partners. To date she has collected nearly $500 in cash and has received hand-crafted items from some of the sisters.
“There has been a promise of other gifts,” said Margaret, “so I await the surprises!”
“I have never lived in the country but over the last couple of years when the farmers were living through drought, season after season, I would hear them talking about the stress of life, of managing their financial situations, of still caring for their families in the midst of their difficulties,” explained Margaret.
“I am delighted to be able to offer them some support in this small way.”