MERCURY SERIES - Making A Difference
Wollongong Emergency Housing (WEH) helped more than 1000 families last year but the need is growing.
That is why director Julie Mitchell was so grateful to the Fairy Meadow community last week when members and staff of the Bendigo Bank branch helped collect enough food to distribute to 100 families later this month.
Anyone walking into the community bank during the last month would have seen it slowly fill with shopping trolleys full of food.
It was part of a food collection by Need A Feed which collected 20 trolleys of food for distribution to WEH clients.
The food collection involved the branch encouraging staff and customers to donate non-perishable food items and Woolworths Fairy Meadow agreeing to match the donations item for item.
Other collection points were Curves Thirroul and Bulli Community Pre-School.
Need A Feed founder Shaz Harrison-Shaw said the food would be distributed to WEH clients on April 29.
Mrs Harrison-Shaw said Bendigo Bank community engagement director Mitch King was the key to getting Need A Feed and WEH together.
"I came in to bank a cheque and we started talking about what I was doing," she said.
Mr King had a similar conversation with Mrs Mitchell and saw an opportunity to connect the two organisations. He said the response was so good it was not likely to be the last time the branch helped them with such a collection. It had done some collections for bushfire relief and other causes in the past but this was addressing a constant need in the community.
"We engaged our customers and our corporate partners and other offices of the Bendigo Bank also chipped in," he said.
Mr King said customers of the Fairy Meadow branch were particularly generous.
And the most generous was someone WEH had helped in the past.
"That person is now much better off and to give back she has gone out and done a huge collection of food," he said.
Mrs Mitchell said to collect the food she darted around town with her little boy in the back of her car collecting donations from people.
"She knows how difficult it was for herself when she was struggling and ... found it really humbling to have to go to organisations and ask for food," she said.
"This was a way she could give back."
Mrs Mitchell described the overall response as incredible.
"It is fantastic the amount of food that has been collected," she said.
"It is really great of Shaz and her committee to have thought of the homeless families in the Illawarra. They will think it is fabulous to get those packages of food. Some 100 families are going receive food as a result of this."
But the need is even bigger which is why more collections are likely.
"I am the manager of Wollongong emergency family housing and we house 121 families a year but we gave additional support to another 889 families in the last year," she said.
"So it is a massive number of people coming to us for assistance. Often they don't have anything. I think Need A Feed is such a fabulous organisation and so needed. I just want to thank them so much for offering to help."
A spokesperson for Woolworths Fairy Meadow said the store welcomed the opportunity to be included in such an initiative.