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Over the past 23 years De-anne Douglas has been the face of the Upper Hunter Food and Toy Appeal, helping bring joy to thousands of families. While she is quick to make sure the amazing team of helpers that make it happen alongside her are also recognised, it is her drive that has kept it going all these years.

“I’m just grateful that I can do this to be honest. People often say to me ‘why do you do it?’, well my childhood was one full of a lot of trauma and Christmas was something that we missed out on a lot. I don’t want any child to wake up on Christmas day feeling like I felt,” De-anne shared of her personal motivation.

“Raising my children as a single mum as well, I know how tough that is for parents to want to be able to provide what they want to provide at Christmas time.”

De-anne was new to town and working for a group that at the time was passing out 30 hampers to families in Muswellbrook when she learned it was at risk of stopping if they couldn’t find someone to take it over.

Not willing to let that happen, she took it on and over the years it has grown as other groups have folded, with a footprint covering Murrurundi to Merriwa, over to Singleton and everywhere in between. In recent years the appeal has fallen under the Blackroo Community Indigenous Corporation, a volunteer run, not-for-profit offshoot of Blackrock Industries with significant support from countless businesses big and small across the region.

While sitting down and chatting about the appeal over the years De-anne got a bit choked up when asked if there were any stories she could share from over the years.

“One Christmas there was a young boy in care, and he was struggling, they hadn’t found placement for him and he was staying in a motel. We were able to decorate the motel, put food in the fridge and make sure that his Christmas wasn’t what he thought. I asked him how his Christmas went, and he said to me that maybe I’m not as unloved or unwanted as I thought I was because I had a Christmas list and I got everything on my Christmas list,” she recalled.

“There was a dad, the police rang me because he’d been robbed so everything was taken from underneath the tree. And I didn’t think anything of it, we boxed up some stuff and delivered it to him. It was a few years later, this man heard us advertising on the radio that we needed support for the appeal and he turned up and was unloading all this stuff out of the back of his truck and he looked at me and he said ‘you don’t remember me, do you?’. He said you helped me and this year I can help you.”

There are so many of these stories that the community don’t get to experience, yet they continue to give so generously to the appeal each and every year.

“I’m blessed that I’ve been able to be part of this, 23 years this year, that’s a big thing for our community. That we’ve been coming together as a community and achieving this,” De-anne said.

“Every year it’s a little bit overwhelming and you think ‘are we going to be able to do this or are we going to have enough?’, and every year there’s just that Christmas miracle this community comes together and we managed to be able to achieve what we achieve.”

The 2023 Power FM/ 2NM Upper Hunter Food and Toy Appeal is currently taking donations of non-perishable food items, toys and gifts for the whole family, and Christmas treats to go into the over 300 hampers they expect to give out this year, along with the 150 gifts to aged care residents in Muswellbrook and Denman.

Donations can be taken to Muswellbrook Toyota, Valley Fasteners, Supply Solutions, Muswellbrook Marketplace Giving Tree or any branch of the Regional Australia Bank. 

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