Meet the couple making Christmas happier for those in need
SINCE a life-changing trip out west 26 years ago when Bill and Melissa Close visited farming families affected by suicide, the couple has been offering assistance to these families in the form of food, clothes, and a shoulder to lean on.
The Christmas season is no different, with Care Outreach taking its Christmas for the Bush initiative out west last week.
For its 26th Christmas for the Bush, Care Outreach travelled to Quilpie, Augathella, Blackall, Charleville and Wyandra, among other regions.
Teams from Care Outreach brought hampers and a listening ear to families who are struggling through the drought and who otherwise would not be able to afford Christmas this year.
“Over the years, we’ve had quite a number of situations where the goods that we gave the families were the only Christmas that they have had,” Mrs Close said.
“The presents, the Christmas hamper, whatever it might be, that was all they had for their Christmas.”
Hampers include everything from non-perishable goods, including Christmas treats around December, presents for children living out west, and gift cards or prepaid Visa cards to allow families to spend money in their own communities.
But for the Closes, it’s all about seeing the people they’re impacting.
“The core of what we do is the visit,” Mrs Close said.
“It’s going out property by property, connecting with the families and just saying ‘hi, how’re you going?’
“Letting them have chat, talk about what they’re going through, sharing the good times and also being there to support them through their struggles.”
Mrs Close knows from 26 years of experience that Christmas isn’t always a happy time of year.
But she hopes her team at Care Outreach has helped alleviate some stress, or at least put a smile on the faces on the families
“We’re very much about building a relationship with the families that we visit and not just a once off,” she said.
“We’re not an aid delivery service, we’re first and foremost about the families.”
For families struggling this Christmas, without access to assistance, Mrs Close wants to reinforce one, important message: every day is one step closer to the day it rains again.
“Keep hanging in there,” she said.
“The season is going to turn.”