by Matt Taylor
THE SALVATION Army is hard at work this week, as they start packing 194 food and toy hampers to hand out at their annual Christmas in the City Event.
The food hampers, which contain enough food for at least three meals as well as some niceties, will be given to needy families who have been pre-determined through an interview process.
Those families with children will also receive a toy hamper, with two or three gifts per child, depending on donations.
Having interviewed close to 253 applicants, the process of deciding who to give hampers to was tough.
Organiser Chris Ford from the Salvation Army, said they worked hard to determine those who were genuinely in need, with hopes to accommodate everyone.
"As you can appreciate, resources are finite," Mr Ford said.
"What we do is we go through and interview every single person, who have to show us where their financial situation is.
"Everyone who applied and is approved gets a food hamper and if they have kids under 12, we do up a toy pack accordingly."
Possible recipients of the program come from a Salvation Army database called SAMIS, which records the organisation's welfare clients over the past 12 months.
Last year, the Salvation Army looked at all of their clients six months back from September, however this year, weren't able to go back as far.
The organisation phoned three months of clients from September, August and July, evidence that there are an increasing number of new residents in town.
Mr Ford said the most interesting aspect of the process was the lack of repeat clients.
"It backs up the argument that there are so many new people in town," Mr Ford said.
"When we're doing our interviews, it's easier if they were here last year, but we didn't have that luxury.
"Out of 255 interviews, somewhere between 20 and 30 were repeat clients."
Those receiving hampers will have them presented at the Christmas In the City event, a combined churches event lead by the Salvos and Lifestyle Church.
The free event, to be held on December 14 at the Gladstone Entertainment Convention Centre, is an opportunity for the community to come together as one with no prejudices.
"We want to be able to celebrate Christmas and the birth of Jesus in that, to show that there is hope," Mr Ford said.
"We believe we are an extension of Jesus in our community, and everyone's cared for, and everyone's loved.
"By doing it for free, that's a way we feel we can do that.
"The whole idea behind it was to help as many people as we can in our communities, and to do it fairly."
The hampers will take about two weeks to pack, with food hampers being put together at the latest time possible.