One thing that has been so touching following the 22nd February earthquake in Christchurch is the help, support and messages of encouragement that came in from outside of the city, and even from around the city itself.
While authorities were encouraging others to offer financial support alone, there is something to be said for lifting the spirits of those affected by the quake that can not be achieved by monetary donations alone.
This was the belief of one Janet McGuinness of Gisborne, owner of baby teething necklace store Mama Pukeko. With close family and friends in Christchurch, Janet, like many others, felt helpless. Wanting to fly down to the city to help but knowing that the city couldn’t support an influx of people and was overflowing with volunteers, Janet was inspired by the ‘Great Sunday Bake Off’ that took place in Wellington whereby Wellingtonians got together to make cakes, muffins, cookies and other baked goods and distributed them to welfare centres around Christchurch.
Janet wanted to reach out to the people that were “stuck in their houses, couldn’t leave for fear of looters and had a long and anxious wait ahead of them while they waited for news on whether their homes and businesses would survive”.
With the help of the local Gisborne newspaper and radio stations as well as social media channels such as Facebook, Janet spread the word about her intentions and support for Gisborne’s own bake-off grew.
With a young family and other commitments herself, Janet contacted a number of companies to find a way to transport the goods to Christchurch. Amongst others, Air New Zealand were contacted for support but were unable to assist without payment. Instead, Kevin Pitchner for Olsen Shipping, aka Eastland Shipping, who has a sister in Christchurch, came to the party and eagerly offered his transport services to the cause. He actually even paid a contractor to deliver the products as his own ships were full and would take too long to arrive.
A few more phone calls resulted in more positive replies and the plan started coming together. Leader Brand supplied the boxes – Peter Baldaccino in charge of packaging also had a sister in Christchurch, the Lawson Field Theatre was made available by the Gisborne District Council as a collection point, Rob Russell and the printing division supplied labels for each package which then had hand-written notes by Gisborne residents for the people of Christchurch.
Big Al’s Bulk Barn, a supermarket in Gisborne, supplied 100s of plastic containers for the baked goods which compiled of fruit loaves, muffins, cookies and more.
The story made the Gisborne Herald both before and after the big send-off to help spread the news and gather support, as well as an airing on the Classic Hits radio station. Further funds were also raised at the Gisborne Farmer’s Market which had a stall dedicated to the quake.
Assisted with the close support of her mother, both were touched to see boxes of baked goods already waiting for them when they arrived at the Lawson Field theatre on the day of the drop-off/collection. Support came in from both young and old. Many of those dropping off goods said that they couldn’t afford to support Christchurch financially and were so relieved to be able to help in some way. Often, boxes were dropped off with hand-written notes of support for the recipients in Christchurch.
Janet describes the collection day herself; “Some people stayed for an hour or so to help, giving up their time freely. I was close to tears many times, the love and care from people was palpable. So nice to know that such a tragedy can bring out the best in some people”.
On arriving in Christchurch, the goods were handed out by members of Janet’s family and were taken to aid stations, welfare centres and retirement homes as well as to individual residents in affected areas. Many of the retirement home residents commented on how touched they were and were even happy just to see friendly faces, commenting that they felt they were forgotten by the city.
On behalf of Christchurch residents, thanks for thinking of us Gisborne.