How to get involved in community support programs
Bayside residents called to action as local charities navigate surging demand and evolving needs.
SECC CEO Kate Melhopt in The People’s Pantry. Image: Supplied
Bayside charities are urging locals to get involved in community support programs to help mitigate cost-of-living pressures as everyday Australians slip through the cracks.
South Eastern Community Connect (SECC) spokesperson Alison Leader says the face of food insecurity is changing.
“It's not those people that you assume that come to us asking for help... It's people like you or me that there's just a few things that have not gone so well and they end up in a position that they need some support,” said Leader.
The call out for additional support comes as living costs for employee households rose by 1.5 per cent in the June 2023 quarter - the biggest rise in over two decades - according to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
“We’ve just got to support each other through hard times. And it's very easy to find yourself falling outside the margins, and we all have a responsibility to bring people back within the margins and to support each other through difficult times, without judgement,” said Thread Together CEO Anthony Chesler.
SECC CEO Kate Melhopt says the surge in demand for food is bigger than she’s ever seen. Families can be seen lining up down the street for SECC’s food relief program, The People’s Pantry.
“Demand for food relief in South East Sydney continues to rise due to low levels of income support, especially for those in our nearby Social Housing estates. This is reflected daily in the calls we receive for help,” said Melhopt.
Renuka Fernando, Co-Founder of Botany-based support service Re-Love, echoed such sentiment: “We only started this during COVID and we thought it was a COVID problem. It's not a COVID problem. It's a society problem.”
“We could be operating seven days a week with the amount of people that need our help right now. I mean, we're even getting asked by caseworkers from Salvation Army and Vinnies to help them. And they’re Salvation Army and Vinnies. There's so much demand right now.
“We're working with a lot of women who are older ladies who haven't been able to just keep up with their rental repayments or have ended up homeless or ended up in women's refuges. It's a pretty tough economic environment right now for a lot of people,” Fernando said.
How to give a helping hand
There are countless ways to lend a helping hand to local charities, from volunteering, financial donations, donating goods and materials, fundraising or raising awareness through word of mouth and social media.
Whether it’s food, furniture, clothing, finance or time, each charity varies in their needs:
The People’s Pantry at South Eastern Community Connect Mascot
Community members helping distribute fresh produce at The People’s Pantry. Image: Supplied
SECC works to reduce loneliness in the community and runs various services including casework, social support, family support and The People’s Pantry. 132 people currently access food relief through the People’s Pantry, 20% of those being young families in crisis.
“We're not just a food relief service. When someone accesses food support at the pantry, we have caseworkers who talk to them and listen to their needs and can also recommend ways that we can support them beyond food relief, because we recognise that support doesn't end with a bag of food,” said Leader.
The pantry is open to receiving donations five days a week either in person or through Coles and Woolworths online delivery services to 1007 Botany Rd, Mascot. Alternatively you can donate money online. The Pantry is open on Wednesdays and Thursdays for drop-ins.
Up to six clients per day are given a one hour session to shop the Re-Love warehouse. Image: Supplied
By connecting with corporate partners, Re-Love provides quality furniture and white goods directly to those in crisis. Individuals and families relocating to housing can shop at Re-Love's IKEA-style warehouse, picking out everything they need to create a home. On average, the not-for-profit supports 15 families per week and provides between 10 to $15,000 worth of material aid per family.
“When you have gone through a situation where you've actually become homeless for whatever reason, that's one of the things that's taken away, your choice. And that's what we give people and I don't think you can measure how impactful that is for somebody when they come through here… it's this feeling of real hope.
“If you can volunteer, sign up…If you're a corporate and your organisation wants to sign up, just to get in contact with us. If you're a company that has access to stock and wants to donate directly to support people in need, we're the place to come to. And if anybody can donate dollars, we really need funding,” said Fernando.
Re-Love is further asking for donations of kitchen starter sets such as kettles, toasters, pots and pans. Further information about donations can be found through their website.
Thread Together Banksmeadow
Volunteers are encouraged to help out at the Thread Together warehouse. Image: Supplied
Thread Together connects unused clothing from fashion brands to people in need, saving these items from landfill. In 2018 the charity distributed 150,000 units of clothing a year. This figure grew to 1.5 million in the 2022 financial year.
“People see clothing as their identity, their second skin. And it's really important to be able to create this opportunity for them to feel empowered through choice. So it is quite an overwhelming experience, they feel dignified,” said Thread Together CEO Anthony Chesler.
Community members are encouraged to volunteer at the Thread Together Banksmeadow warehouse to help fulfil orders or deliver clothing across Sydney. Alternatively, a donation of five dollars can provide a new wardrobe for one person. Spreading word of mouth to charities who can refer people to the service or introducing fashion brands is likewise appreciated.
Bayside Women’s Shelter
Bayside Women’s Shelter is a six bedroom shelter for women who are escaping family or domestic violence.
Locals are encouraged to volunteer through their website.
Bayside Women’s Shelter accepts various types of donations, including financial, toys and furniture, offers of trade support or other professional services.
Pantry4ThePeople is actively looking for a steady stream of non perishables to supply the roadside cupboard at 1555 Botany Road, Botany.
Rachael Smith, founder of Pantry4ThePeople, says community members can contact her via Instagram @Pantry4ThePeople_Sydney to donate food or supermarket gift vouchers of any denomination, which can be used to supply fresh food grocery boxes to families.
Read more about the Pantry4ThePeople story.
Bayside Men’s Shed
Bayside Men’s Shed helps promote mateship, with all elder community members encouraged to join.
“It helps with mental health with the Men’s Shed because people come in here and they might come in and not be working on anything but they come in for the social aspect of it …the idea of men's shed is they can sit and discuss just about anything that's going on in their life, any problem they've got,” said President of Bayside Men’s Shed Fred Poole.
“The best way to support us is to bring jobs in for us. Most of the time, we’re scratching around for things to do. We’re limited to doing things mostly in house,” he said.
Give what you can, take what you need
The Re-Love team with volunteers. Image: Supplied
If you’re going through a period of hardship yourself, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. The Bayside community has your back.
“It’s definitely twofold...how can you get help? How can you give help? And depending on what situation you're currently in, we all need help sometimes,” said Leader.
If you or anyone you know needs mental health support, call Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 or Lifeline 131 114. Additional support contacts can be found at www.whiteribbon.org.au/Find-Help/Help-Lines.