Southlake Marketplace toy gifts go green this Christmas

Southlake Marketplace's annual Christmas toy drive has turned green this year with the charitable organisation swapping wrapping paper for cloth sacks handmade by community volunteers.

The charitable organisation used 3000 metres of paper to wrap toys last year and with 330 Lake Macquarie children registered to receive toys for Christmas this year, Marketplace founder Christine Mastello said it made sense to find a greener method of bundling the gifts.

"It's all about sustainability," she said. "Last year we used 300 rolls of 10m wrapping paper which just gets ripped up anyway. My sons, like a lot of people, are passionate about the environment so we wanted to find a more sustainable way of wrapping the toys this year."

Ms Mastello said she was surprised by the positive feedback she received from the community when she called for donations of quilts to create toy sacks.

In total, about 350 sacks have been made by volunteers from the community. Many of the quilts have been turned into toy sacks by residents of the Catalina retirement village in Cooranbong.

On Monday night, volunteers bundled together toys for children into the sacks. This year the toys have been donated by Munmorah United Bowling Club, Gateway Church and Goodstart Early Learning Lake Munmorah.

The toys will be handed out at Cooranbong Community Hall on Sunday as part of Southlake Marketplace's Christmas event which is open to the community to attend.

It will run 11am to 2pm and will feature jumping castles, petting zoo, pony rides, an AFL kickabout, community stalls and a visit from Santa. Entry is a gold coin donation.

In addition to the toys, on Sunday Southlake Marketplace will give out 312 food hampers to families and residents who have registered for assistance.

Ms Mastello said when Southlake Marketplace first began its Christmas drive in 2013 it gave out 36 toy gifts and 18 food hampers.

"As proud as I am of Southlake Marketplace, it saddens me to sit back and watch the numbers increase ever year," she said.

Ms Mastello added that of those registered to receive food hampers, 14 were homeless people - the "most I've seen", she said.

The food hampers have been created through funds raised by Lake churches including Avondale College Seventh-day Adventist and Gateway Church.

Further speaking to the increasing need for food assistance, Ms Mastello said so far this year Southlake Marketplace had given out 700 emergency food packs.

The emergency packs are filled with food donated by 11 Lake Macquarie schools which are valued at $50 each.

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