Mayor's message | Helping to spread the goodwill of the season

The countdown to Christmas has begun. However, for those facing financial challenges, Christmas can be anything but happy. Often, it is a stressful time as cash-strapped parents try to work out how they can deliver for their children the sort of Christmas the vast majority of us take for granted.

Unfortunately, there are many people in our own community who face these sorts of difficulties at Christmas time. Samaritans, one of the region's biggest charities, assists about 5000 children from across the Hunter each year during the Christmas season - by distributing gifts, providing Christmas lunch and through other assistance services.

On Monday morning, I launched the annual Mayor's Christmas Appeal (pictured), run in partnership with Samaritans, which is one avenue people in our community can use to help to make life a little easier for people who are faced with financial challenges at this time of year.

We also welcome gifts for adults and teenagers, non-perishable foodstuffs, toiletries and other essential household items. Samaritans tell me that gifts for older children and adults are always in short supply, and vouchers make excellent presents for people in these age groups.

This year, we're also supporting drought-impacted communities. Upper Hunter and Muswellbrook shire councils have partnered with Upper Hunter Community Services to ensure that 500 drought impacted families are supported this Christmas through the 'We LIVE Here' investment card.

The Our Shout this Christmas initiative aims to raise $500,000 from donations to allow 500 drought-impacted households to each receive a $1000 'We LIVE Here' card to spend over Christmas.

All gifts are welcome and will all find their way to a grateful recipient. Samaritans ask that gifts be unwrapped. Make donations at the council administration centre, at Speers Point, or at Lake Mac Libraries branches. The appeal is open until December 16.

Carols in the park

Christmas is a wonderful time of year where family and friends come together in celebration, and there is no better event to get together with your loved ones to revel in the spirit of Christmas than Lake Mac Carols at Speers Point Park. The Sunday, December 8, event - Lake Macquarie's biggest Christmas event - will feature entertainment, markets, food and music.