Christmas gift of hope sparks lifetime of care

26 October 2022

Christmas gift of hope sparks lifetime of care


Josie never forgot the gifts given to her – through the work of The Salvation Army – in the dark days of her childhood. She has dedicated her life to sharing the gift of hope with countless others, as a Salvation Army volunteer and through a range of community initiatives.

Josie shares:

I came from a family of 13 children and was the fifth youngest. We grew up in poverty in a family of verbal abuse and violence, but I hid it all from my friends.

For many years we lived in a corrugated iron house with no glass in our windows, just mosquito wire and pieces of corrugated iron that folded down when it rained and at night.

By the time I was seven years old, I was suffering from serious malnutrition. Food was scarce in those days. I would live on Vegemite sandwiches and sweet drinks to fill up. My body and my teeth really suffered from this.

It was a sad childhood for all of us. One of my sisters died of cancer at the age of four. Our life was a constant worry about when we would be hit next. I would be hit for doing nothing wrong except being in the wrong place when my dad was in a bad mood.

My brother lost his hearing in one ear as he was always hit on the one side of his head. He and I had a great bond during our childhood, and we tried to protect each other. We are still the best of friends.

A ray of Christmas hope in hard times

Every year it was embarrassing going to school after Christmas, as the other children were talking about what they received – and I couldn’t say anything.

One day, I looked out my bedroom window to see a man in a blue uniform coming up the footpath and sitting down to speak with my father. He was from The Salvation Army. He was such a wonderful person who did not judge and was there to make sure we had a Christmas like everyone else did.

That year, I received my favourite ever Christmas gift and I have remembered it ever since. It was a glass tea set and I loved it. That was the day I said to myself that I would make it up to The Salvation Army for giving my family a Christmas to remember.

After that time, The Salvation Army started delivering gifts to us every year. It was so wonderful not only to receive the gifts but to also tell my friends what I got for Christmas.

The feeling of belonging was, in many ways, the greatest gift of all.

And it was not only the gifts that made such a difference, but also the hampers we received, to make sure we had a wonderful Christmas lunch. Usually, we had baked beans with mashed potatoes, but after The Salvation Army started delivering their wonderful hampers, we had roast chicken, baked potatoes, pumpkin, peas, gravy and, for dessert, pudding and custard.

If times are tough, the Salvos are here to offer you hope this Christmas.
Find help this Christmas

Over many years, I never forgot my desire to help others out.

As part of my community volunteering, I started volunteering at a Salvation Army thrift shop with (Salvos) Captain Pauline. Pauline made me feel so welcome that I have been there for more than 10 years.
Experience hope and connection this Christmas at your local Salvos.

While I love being busy through The Salvation Army, I also have many other projects on the go.

Some of my projects over the past few years include making facemasks early in the COVID-19 pandemic to support those who were homeless. In total over 1000 masks were made. I have also organised knitting/crocheting more than 200 sets of beanies, scarves and gloves for the homeless in Melbourne.

I am also part of a project making ‘dining scarves’ for older people, that has been taken up by people all over the world.

Gratitude and thankfulness

My husband Brian and I have two adult children. During COVID, we agreed not to buy big Christmas gifts anymore, as being together at Christmas is a gift in itself.

A loving family, food on the table and a peaceful Christmas truly is a gift.

Looking back, my life was hard to start with, but life is what you make it. Thanks to people who cared, like The Salvation Army, I have a beautiful family who I love and a happy life.

Thanks to what The Salvation Army did in my younger life, I have spent many years helping others. I thoroughly enjoy helping others, because I love seeing the smiles on their faces and also the tears they shed when they realise someone cares.

After more than a decade serving as a Salvation Army volunteer, I still experience a feeling of joy as we support others [who are] in the same position I was in.
Share the gift of hope this Christmas

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