Local stokvel combats Christmas crunch by buying in bulk

2008-12-09 00:00

Despite the current economic difficulties, some local families are looking forward to a holiday season with plenty of festive food to enjoy. They are members of a local stokvel that has been saving for 10 months for meat and grocery hampers that were distributed recently.

Helpmekaar Stokvel was started in 1990 by Inez Hine of Glenwood as a service to her community and to help combat the financial difficulties often associated with the festive season.

“Because of how they spent over the holidays, many families struggled come January to find money for school fees and uniforms and then for rates in February. I wanted to find a way out of this and prove that we could do it.”

Helpmekaar members live in northern and eastern suburbs like Woodlands, Eastwood, Glenwood and Cinderella Park, but the group also has members in Imbali, Ashburton and Howick and some as far away as Bloemfontein and Johannesburg. Anyone may join the stokvel, but they try to keep membership to a maximum of 50 to prevent the administration from becoming unmanageable.

From January to October, members pay lump sums to a central fund administered by Hine and Shereen Balkisson of Scottsville. They have a choice of three different food hampers to contribute towards: meat, general groceries and luxuries.

The general hamper contains frozen, tinned and packaged food, cleaning materials and toiletries, while the luxury hamper consists of sweets, snacks, fruit juices, soft drinks and ice cream.

Senior citizens may contribute to a hamper combining all three. Members meet twice a year to decide what products to include in the hampers, and in the case of disputes, the majority rules.

Last weekend, Helpmekaar took over the Pick ’n Pay in Langalibalele Street until the early hours of Saturday morning to pack the grocery hampers.

Hine and Balkisson had negotiated with the management during the year to get the best possible prices to make the group’s money stretch as far as possible. Balkisson said that the combined benefits of bulk buying and special discounts meant that for the R2 600 members paid for the general hamper, they got about R3 800 worth of groceries.

The meat hamper is the most popular, consisting of a mix of packaged beef, lamb and pork products supplied by Trans Natal Meat Wholesalers of Durban. These hampers were distributed last month.

Stokvel member Regan Dawson of Eastwood is a single mother of two sons who shares the hampers with her mother, Priscilla George, also of Eastwood. They have been members for four years and Dawson co-ordinates the volunteers to help with packing hampers.

“Being a member of the stokvel is a great help, especially in the bad period in January when we are all waiting for payday. The tinned and packaged food can last me till March, the meat can last me till April and the other groceries till July. I usually have something left by Easter every year.”

George said she appreciated not having to stand in long queues at Christmas time.

A new member of the stokvel, Thandi Miya of Cato Ridge, said her deep freeze and fridge are so full of meat there is no room for anything else. “We are a family of eight and I can see that it’s going to be a big help to be a member of this group. My children are very excited and looking forward to all the luxuries.”

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