An Illawarra social enterprise that provides jobs for young people and former refugees has thanked the community for its support during the COVID outbreak, which has kept staff employed and helped community members in need.
Green Connect has been hit hard by the pandemic and the current lockdown: of its five business units, only its farm and its gardening and landscaping business are still operating, while its staffing solutions venture is at half capacity.
General manager Kylie Flament said this had been "terrifying" for many of Green Connect's staff, who did not know when they would next have paid work with the closure of the organisation's Unanderra op shop and its zero waste service having gone into hibernation.
In response, Ms Flament said, Green Connect launched care packages, veg boxes, food hampers and meal packages for people in need, which were put together by its employees and funded by community donations and grants.
"We have managed to keep all of our op shop staff employed by offering the care packages, so that helped to fund their employment to continue," she said.
In the past three months, more than 2500 packages have gone out into the community.
"It has been really heartwarming, the way that the community got behind what we were doing with care packages," Ms Flament said, adding the kindness was "quite extraordinary".
"It helped thousands of people who were really doing it tough.
"We were shocked by some of the stories of hardship."
To also help ease lockdown's impact, Ms Flament said the enterprise had worked on business development to ensure there was more work coming down the line - "summer is shaping up to be quite busy" - and worked with employees to make sure they received any financial support they were entitled to.
With reopening beginning Monday, Green Connect is now looking forward to welcoming customers back into its op shop, and hopefully ramping its staffing solutions arm back up to full capacity.