NEIGH­BOURLY GIFTS SAVE FAM­ILY’S CHRIST­MAS Flood of help ‘a mir­a­cle’

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By ROSE CAW­LEY

THIS may be the Stow­ers fam­ily’s best Christ­mas yet.

Not be­cause of what they will be un­wrap­ping on the big day but be­cause of the peo­ple who made it pos­si­ble.

Mother-of-four Gemma Stow­ers had ac­cepted the fact that this fes­tive sea­son was go­ing to be a bleak one.

With no ex­tra cash there would be no tree or presents, just stress and guilt over not be­ing able to pro­vide those joys.

‘‘I had a lit­tle dis­cus­sion with my kids about how mummy couldn’t af­ford to do that this year.

‘‘A few days later I over­heard my two old­est in their room try­ing to be quiet and se­cre­tively pool their pocket money to­gether to see if they could buy me a present.’’

She says the sweet ges­ture broke her heart.

‘‘It’s not some­thing kids should be hav­ing to go through.’’

Gemma men­tioned times were tough on the so­cial site Neigh­bourly.co.nz which fo­cuses on con­nect­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

And the re­sponse was noth­ing short of a Christ­mas mir­a­cle, she says.

The Stow­ers re­ceived a Christ­mas tree com­plete with dec­o­ra­tions, food parcels, movie vouch­ers, gifts for all the chil­dren and even a few for self­less Gemma.

‘‘One of the ladies, who had al­ready done so much for us or­gan­is­ing gifts, turned up and said: ‘We’ve got some cash for you’.

‘‘I was just in shock, she had $800.

‘‘I cried and we hugged – there were no words for that mo­ment.’’

Stow­ers says ad­mit­ting she needed help isn’t some­thing she would nor­mally do.

‘‘Be­ing a sin­gle mother I have to be the strong per­son who takes on ev­ery­thing so let­ting your guard down and say­ing: ‘ I’m not OK’ – it is a hard thing to do.’’

But she says the re­al­ity of this year left her no choice.

‘‘I left work after Louis was di­ag­nosed with ASD [autism spec­trum disorder].

‘‘He wasn’t set­tling in day­care and home life was hard for all of us so I made the choice to do ev­ery­thing I could for him.

‘‘As a stay-at-home solo­par­ent be­ing on the ben­e­fit isn’t easy.

‘‘We’ve all had to come to the re­al­i­sa­tion that since we moved here, since I stopped work­ing that we have much, much less.’’

She says this ‘‘very merry’’ Christ­mas won’t be for­got­ten.

‘‘The words ‘‘thank you’’ don’t seem enough for how grate­ful I am to th­ese peo­ple.

‘‘Next year when we are do­ing bet­ter again I will pay it for­ward.’’

Photo: ROSE CAW­LEY

So grate­ful: Gemma Stow­ers has been over­whelmed by the support the Mt Eden com­mu­nity has shown her. Cyrus, 8, and his sib­lings have presents un­der their new tree to open to­mor­row thanks to the good­will of their neigh­bours.

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