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Christmas Surprise for rural families

CHRISTMAS is well and truly over but for seven local farming families who are doing it tough it was a Christmas to remember, thanks to the generosity and support of the "Our Youth Our Future Christmas Tree'.

Four families had Christmas Day all wrapped up with food hampers and gifts carefully selected for every member of the family with the Christmas Tree foundation able to help 7 families from Griffith, Narrandera and Leeton areas all up with gifts.

"This Christmas was a bloody good Christmas. We ring up and find out what the nominated people like and we do our best to satisfy each person. This is a total surprise to these people, it's a very emotional time when they pick up the hampers, people breakdown with gratitude. Their reactions are so appreciative," said Peter Gerard-Smith, Rural Financial Counsellor.

Val Rowe one of the main organisers says it's a great time of year for her to be able to shop for other people, she just wishes she could see the looks on peoples faces on Christmas morning when they open their gifts.

* Pictured is Val Rowe and Rural Financial Counsellor at Cater and Blumer, Peter Gerard-Smith.

Story by: The Riverina Farmer Magazine, February 2007.
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Christmas tree helps youth

CHRISTMAS is well and truly over but for 100 local families who are doing it tough it was a Christmas to remember, thanks to the generosity and support of the Our Youth Our Future Christmas Tree.

With Val Rowe and her loyal supporters the driving force behind the idea, it took four months of letter writing and phone calls to companies all across Australia to donate items to help make Christmas special for those young people who are alone or suffer from mental illness or depression.

The different support groups involved nominate young people who suffer mental illness, depression or are alone on Christmas Day and then pick out their Christmas gifts from the Christmas tree selection.

Val says they couldn't have done this without the 'Walk Away Your Worries' fundraiser last year, which raised $22,000.

"This is our way of showing the town that this is what we do with the money" said Val. "It's a shame we can't be there on Christmas day to see their faces. All Christmas day I spend my time thinking of these people, wondering if they like their gifts."

Leeton High School donated $5,380 to JPET Leeton who wanted to put money back into the Leeton community. Michael Wright from Leeton JPET was on hand to choose gifts for the 16 young people in the Leeton and Narrandera area.

* Val Rowe with Michael Wright Griffith Skills Training Centre, Leeton JPET, Kristy Bortolin Centrecare, Lisa Caldrow GSTC - JPET, Britta Hollandy Physcho Social Rehab and Sid Barone PRA peak body.

Story by: The GO Magazine, February 2007.
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Group helps to brighten lives

Suicide Awareness president Val Rowe and Westend Wines' Bill Calabria at the Gemini during the Christmas gift handout.

MORE than 100 local people had their Christmas spirits lifted thanks to the work of the local community and the Suicide Awareness group.

Each year for the last four years, the group has donated gifts to organisations who then distribute them to clients suffering from mental illness.

The gifts are from the group's annual Christmas Tree Our Youth Our Future Appeal. Suicide Awareness president Val Rowe said the appeal benefitted 120 people from around the region.

"This year we have noticed there are so many suffering from mental illness and the effects of the drought," she said. "It is the best feeling for our group to know that we gave hope to so many. I really think we helped brighten what may have been an otherwise sad Christmas."

The gifts, handed over on December 13 at the Gemini, went to Griffith, Leeton and Narrandera JPET, Personal Support Program, Community College, Centacare, Goodfellas, Circle of Friends, the Soup Kitchen and Murrumbidgee Valley Rural Counselling Service.

"Each of the organisations distributed the gifts according to need," Mrs Rowe said.

Mrs Rowe said the fact that the appeal had grown steadily each year shows that more people are suffering the effects of mental illness.

Story by: Tanya Pattison, The Area News, 17 January 2007.
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Suicide Awareness .com Inc

PO Box 8039, Griffith
NSW 2680, Australia