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Projects StreetSmart

4 Projects Lending a Hand To Those Doing It Tough This Christmas

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Although Christmas is a joyful time for many of us, it can be a very difficult time for many. Financial pressures, social isolation, and family separation increase dramatically over this period, making it one of the busiest times of year for the projects and services we support.

That’s why we have a number of ways to lend a hand to those who are doing it tough this holiday season – with DineSmart in full swing and StreetFunder supporting four projects to help meet the demand of Christmas – there are lots of ways to pay it forward.

Here is a little about each of the projects, who are serving up community dinners, putting together hampers and making sure their communities most vulnerable have a pressie under the tree this Christmas.

Manna Gum Community House is a  is a small not-for-profit located in Foster, South Gippsland. They provide an increasingly busy emergency relief service to people in need in the local community.

Lack of access to transport to reach the larger service towns in the district, lack of housing and rural isolation are common issues, and through their drop-in centre and community kitchen, the Manna Gum Community House is a vital service for many locals.

“There is a shortage of housing and many people that come to us are either homeless or living in transitional housing. Every year, as we approach Christmas, we experience an increase in demand for our services. This year we will distribute food hampers at a Christmas Community Lunch in December, part of a monthly pop-up cafe program that provides a hot meal and social connection for regular clients and the volunteers.” – Rebecca Matthews, Community Development Coordinator, Manna Gum Community House

Zig Zag Young Women’s Resource Centre is based in Brisbane and provides counselling and medium term supported accommodation to young women who have survived sexual violence and those experiencing homelessness. Sadly, demand for their services increases dramatically over the holiday period and their staff are determined to make the period a safe, and joyous one.  

“The generous offer from StreetSmart of financial support over the Christmas period could not have come at a better time! Christmas is a difficult time for many of the women and children we help and we always see increased demand for our service. This extra funding will allow us to purchase essential items such as food, clothes, nappies, and children’s items, and to top up phone credit. We also host an end of year Christmas event for the young women and their children who have accessed our support programs throughout the year, and this provides an opportunity to connect, check in with them and distribute the emergency relief food vouchers and other items your funds will resource.” – Stephanie Anne, Manager, Zig Zag Young Women’s Resource Centre Inc

Cos We Care are a small volunteer-run organisation that provide high-quality community meals and much-needed items, such as toiletries and clothing, to the homeless and vulnerable in Adelaide and Elizabeth. They support a regular community of around 200 people who attend their Sunday lunches and depend on donated goods to make it all happen. Funds raised through StreetFunder will help provide their regular Sunday community with a gift they can choose themselves.

“When you’re depending on charity – so much of what you get is often the only thing on offer. The people we help are very grateful for that – but I’d love for them to buy something they really want – something they chose. That might be something they need, or a gift for a nephew, or something they just really want. I’d love for people to have that choice, that would be really wonderful.” Ann Cooper – Cos We Care

Coast Shelter is the largest provider of meals to those in need on the NSW Central Coast, operating every day of the year. Last year over 50,000 meals were provided to those in need in addition over 1,300 hampers to struggling families at risk through their community kitchen, Laurie’s Table. They run ten refuges across the Central Coast providing over 200 beds for young people and adults, and crisis accommodation for women and children escaping domestic violence.

“Christmas is by far the time of greatest demand on our services – providing meals but especially hampers to those in financial stress. StreetSmart’s assistance gives us the ability to lift the spirits of the people we help. Last Christmas we had in excess of 250 people attend our lunch and dinner sittings, which are managed by volunteers from the community.  We believe it’s vital to show the meaning of Christmas, of love and goodwill to our fellow man. This funding will make that one day just that little bit more special.” – Chris Holstein, Coast Shelter.

 

You can chip in and support these wonderful community organisations that are making Christmas a little brighter here.

 

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The Mum Powered Charity That’s Helping Local Families in Need

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Jessica Macpherson, founder and CEO of St Kilda Mums

St Kilda Mums connects new and pre-loved baby goods with families in need, and was founded by a group of mums with the very simple idea that local families can help each other out.

With a little helping hand from funds raised through our DineSmart campaign, this volunteer powered organisation has grown to include Eureka Mums in Ballarat and Geelong Mums. Jessica Macpherson, founder and CEO of St Kilda Mums now oversees an organisation with over 2,500 volunteers. But it started with just a handful of goods she donated to the St Kilda Maternal and Child Health Centre.

“When my son was newborn, I was visiting my maternal health centre very regularly. I started to offer some of the things my son had already outgrown. The nurse asked me to pop these things into the photocopy room, and I went in and saw that there was lots of donations like mine.

The nurses were taking these goods, and doing their best to distribute them. But they had no time to organise it all, which also meant they were struggling to find things when they needed them.

So I volunteered to organise all of the donations, to make it an easy pop in to find what was needed. I felt so good, and the nurses were so grateful, I just wanted to do more – and that was it.”

It was the beginning of a very small community project, that has now grown to service across Victoria and has been 100% lead by local mum’s. “Each of the projects has been set up by mums all working together, helping each other and sharing the load”.

While the core of their work is material aid, Jessica is quick to point out that there’s no such thing as a typical family that needs support, but there are some people that are more vulnerable than others.

“The majority of people we support are migrants and asylum seekers, women who are homeless or escaping family violence. We also help many teenage mums, indigenous families, women with poor mental health, disability or experiencing a crisis. While there’s no ‘perfect time’ to have a baby, some women will be facing this huge life-changing event under really difficult circumstances.”

St Kilda Mums Volunteer, Tammy

Homelessness comes at great cost to an individual’s health, and for a pregnant woman her own health and that of her unborn child are at risk. Untreated chronic disease, risk of infection, malnutrition and exposure to violence are just some of the risks pregnant women face while homeless, with many presenting to maternity wards with nothing but the clothing on their backs.

“Everyday, families who are presenting to the maternity ward with nothing. No accommodation, no idea where the next meal will come from. We know many of these women are in that situation because they are escaping violence, which escalates when they fall pregnant. Absolutely no one should be in that situation, let alone at such a critical time in their life. We are really glad to be able to step in and offer some immediate relief.”

Not everyone who needs help from St Kilda Mums would be immediately recognisable as vulnerable. Life can throw you a curveball at any time, and people are welcoming a child into the world every day amidst some very real, very big challenges.

“I will never forget one family we helped who had very premature twins – born three months early. As you might imagine mum and her babies needed to spend a lot of time in hospital. That was already a massive and unforeseen challenge, but over the course of the pregnancy dad’s health deteriorated and by the time of their birth, he was in palliative care. Whatever plans they had made were out the window, with dad’s illness and then such a premature birth the challenges for that family were huge.”

A new baby will often come at a time when everything seems to be in chaos, but I honestly believe it can be overcome with support, and that’s what we try to do – help in whatever way we can.”

There is an optimism and genuine care that underpins what St Kilda Mums’ does – supporting families when they need it and without judgement.

We believe that ending homelessness starts with local people creating connected communities, and that’s why we’ve been proud to support their work with almost $70k in community grants since 2012.  As Jessica explains…

“DineSmart grants have helped us launch in all three of our locations, and supported a number of our small projects and pilot projects, which have now gone on to become part of our core service. We could not have got these projects off the ground without that initial support.”

 

You can support St Kilda, Geelong and Eureka Mum’s by dining at a participating restaurant in those areas. Just check out our map to find your local.

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