Businesses dig deep to help Ally

MERCURY SERIES - Making A Difference

A Wollongong charity is starting 2014 with renewed hope after overcoming a burglary with the help of generous business support from Lube Markovski and Michael Baines.

When Ally Kelly's Mind Blank office was broken into last November, thieves stole items important to its operation. Mind Blank has no paid staff and its founder works multiple jobs so she can continue to run the not-for-profit organisation.

So when thousands of dollars worth of equipment was stolen, she and her team had no money to replace it.

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That was where the immediate response by Mr Markovski, of Hairhouse Warehouse, and Mr Baines, of BaiMed Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic, was a lifesaver for the organisation that helps save lives.

Mr Markovski was not aware of Mind Blank, but when he heard about the theft and what the charity did to help engage youth in discussion around mental health issues, he immediately wanted to help.

"I used to be a child protection officer and obviously worked with a lot of abused kids and disadvantaged kids," he said.

"Helping youth is a passion of mine. We have done very well out of business. So I think it is important to contribute back to the community that supports you."

Mr Baines had recently competed against Ms Kelly as a finalist for Young Business Person of the Year at the Illawarra Business Awards and had done a background on her and Mind Blank to find out who he was up against.

He was impressed by her work and immediately chipped in $1500.

"Mental health is our big crusade for 2014 so it made sense for us to help Mind Blank," he said.

"I read the article and just wanted to do something."

Mind Blank has attracted national attention for the way it uses interactive theatre to encourage young people to talk about things not generally openly discussed.

It breaks down barriers and engages youth on important issues such as depression and anxiety by using humour and speaking to them on their own level.

Last year it opened a dialogue with more than 3000 school children. The funding for that program has now ended and Mind Blank is in the final stages of changing its corporate structure.

Ms Kelly said within days of the theft she had received more than $5000 in pledges of support.

She said the money Mr Baines put in enabled Mind Blank to replace a video camera, which was important for research. Looking back, Ms Kelly said the speed of the response was amazing.

Fusion Training Solutions quickly helped out with some new computers. "We had several offers to replace the computers, which I am so grateful for," she said.

"And when I got back to work in January I found out the local suicide prevention network made a significant donation, along with Dr Jim Turner."

Ms Kelly said there were many other gestures as well.

"It really helped us to stay positive in a time that was quite stressful," she said.

She said Mind Blank was moving forward.

"One of the new projects, which is with the Illawarra Multicultural Services, has gone ahead," she said.

"We will be working together to develop a script to engage young people and connect them to the services. And the Department of Communities and Education in NSW has offered us in collaboration with the Mental Health Commission to launch Youth Week at Parliament House.

"It will be a great opportunity because it means our work is being showcased across the state," Ms Kelly said.

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