A not-for-profit organisation which runs free laundry and washing services for people who are sleeping rough is in urgent need of Illawarra volunteers.
Since the launch of local Orange Sky van 'Daisy' in 2016, volunteers have washed more than 5560 loads of washing for those doing it tough in the region.
Among Orange Sky's volunteers is Oak Flats resident Alex Bausch, 25.
Mr Bausch picks up and drops off the organisation's laundry and shower vans at various locations throughout the Illawarra, and helps run the services on-site.
"We provide a good environment for positive conversation, and just help our friends on the street," he told the Mercury.
"They may not have (access to) a washing machine or dryer, and it's expensive.
"So if people can save a couple of dollars here and there, it really goes a long way, especially for those who are doing it really tough.
"And even more so during COVID, with everyone losing their jobs and all that."
Mr Bausch has been an Orange Sky volunteer for about 18 months. He started in Melbourne, and has been doing so in the Illawarra for the past few months.
The electrician was living in Melbourne, but lost his job when COVID-19 hit.
"I came back up to Mum and Dad's for a couple of weeks, and while I was here the border shut," he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Bausch said volunteering has boosted his confidence.
"I was a very shy person before volunteering, but it gets you out of your shell, you get a bit confident, and have a chat to people," he said.
"I've always thought it would be cool to have a charity, but it's kind of hard if you don't really have a lot of money (to donate).
"But volunteering is a great thing. It's only a couple of hours a week, but it definitely helps.
"You also meet new people, make new friends... If you're ever having a tough week or whatever you've always got volunteering to look forward to, and you can help people who are less fortunate than you."
Orange Sky is urgently calling on the Illawarra community for volunteers.
The group says their volunteer numbers nationally have dropped by 50 per cent amid COVID-19.
Volunteering for Orange Sky only takes two hours a week or fortnight to help connect someone doing it tough with free laundry, a hot shower and some genuine conversation.
The community can register to volunteer at orangesky.org.au/volunteer.
Orange Sky co-founder Nic Marchesi said having clean clothes can restore a sense of self-esteem and confidence, "but the positive conversations and interactions that occur while the washing machines are spinning can be transformative - not just for our friends, but for our volunteers as well".
"All we ask is that you're an empathetic listener and love to have a chat," he said.
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