WHEN single-mother-of-four Ella Otton moved to Grafton she had nothing.
Her children arrived from Sydney with just a backpack of clothes and Ella moved in with the only person she knew in Grafton, her sister-in-law Monique Larkin.
"She literally had to buy everything, from cutlery to pillowcases," Monique said.
After a four-month struggle, Ella's life is back on track.
She has got her driver's licence, bought a car and is renting a house.
She lives with her four children, Wyatt, 6, Jakoby, 4, Hazel-Rose, 3, and Maverick, 2.
Four-year-old Jakoby suffers from Down syndrome.
While she may have the essentials sorted, Christmas crept up on the family and last week Ella was unsure how she would afford presents for her children.
Monique took to Facebook last Tuesday morning, posting a request for any old clothes or toys that could be given to the family.
"These kids believe in Santa and the spirit of Christmas is still there - you can't shatter that for them," Monique said.
"I didn't expect to get any response. It's unreal. There's been so much stuff donated."
Gifts came flooding in, with people offering everything from cricket bats to tea party sets.
Now Ella and Monique are keen to help other people who are struggling this festive season.
"We're going to give the kids a few toys each for Christmas, but people have donated so many toys that we'll be giving the leftover toys back to others in need," Monique said.
"We don't want to be greedy.
"Ella wouldn't be the only person in this situation."
When Monique showed Ella the ever-growing bundle of gifts, she was speechless.
"She was in tears, overwhelmed," Monique said.
"All these people are complete strangers to Ella.
"She's moved here to a town where she doesn't know anyone."
Ella said she felt humbled by the generous response of the Clarence Valley community.
"I didn't think people were that nice.
"It was such a surprise," she said.
"I just want to say a big, big thank you to all the people who helped out.
"It's so good to see people with big hearts."
THANKS TO THOSE WHO DONATED
Westlawn Preschool - Lyn Anderson, Caroline, Fiona.
Lee and Lyn Henry
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