‘You’re a generous bunch’: Charities grateful for our pandemic giving

Many Australians have suffered hardship this year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic but charities say it hasn’t prevented us from helping others in need.

While demand for support has been high, many members of the public have done their utmost to give what they could to good causes.

Thank you: CEO Jessica Macpherson at the St Kilda Mums warehouse in Clayton.Credit:Jason South

"Australians are a very generous bunch," said Jessica Macpherson, chief executive of St Kilda Mums which gives free baby and toddler goods to parents who need them.

She says she was "very worried" that levels of donations of money and materials would drop when the COVID-19 pandemic became serious at the end of March.

However, "the generosity of our supporters has been incredible", she said.

Ms Macpherson said St Kilda Mums had filled orders for all 1148 babies and children on their waiting list since October, and had so much stock it closed its 2400 square metre Clayton warehouse early for the year on December 11 "because we ran out of room".

St Kilda Mums volunteers – up to 100 on any given day – could not come to the Clayton warehouse for seven months this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

But the charity kept going with 11 part-time paid staff, some on JobKeeper.

Inner Melbourne charity St Mary’s House of Welcome would normally have filled Fitzroy Town Hall with up to 400 guests at its annual Christmas lunch on Thursday.

Instead, for the first time in 16 years, the homeless support centre shut its doors for Christmas.

Housing Minister Richard Wynne was at St Mary’s House of Welcome in Fitzroy on Chrismas Eve where, with chief executive Robina Bradley, he handed food hampers to clients including Drew Millar.Credit:Eddie Jim

Chief executive Robina Bradley says rather than this year being a write-off, her team of 150 volunteers has worked to provide daily meals as well as Christmas hampers for hundreds of people over the past fortnight.

“What we've done this year to make sure that we maintain safety is all of our service users are receiving masks, they're receiving a Christmas hamper which has been tailored to their needs,” said Ms Bradley, flanked by Housing Minister Richard Wynne.

“Whether they're sleeping rough, or in housing … and need that support to keep them going, they have received a hamper this week generously provided by the donations of many.”

It was a “really hard decision” to close on Christmas Day and wave goodbye to a joyful tradition, Ms Bradley said, but “we will be back”.

A St Mary’s spokeswoman said donations had risen by 30 per cent this year compared with the year before.

People had been "incredibly generous", she said. "I think people feel a bit powerless so it’s one thing that they can do in order to help make a difference in the situation."

The charity distributed 135,000 meal packs since March, compared with 55,000 last year and it gave out 1700 emergency food hampers, compared with 400 last year.

Mission Australia’s fundraising income rose 35 per cent nationally from April to September compared with the same period last year. And the amount raised in its Christmas appeal is currently 12 per cent ahead of last year.

Elvira Lodewick, Mission Australia’s general manager for fundraising and marketing, attributed the increase in giving to an "all in this together" mentality.

"Amidst physical distancing measures and lockdowns, it has been heartening to see how this collective experience of COVID-19 has galvanised Australia’s sense of community spirit, kindness and generosity," she said.’

Belinda Dimovski, director of engagement and support at the Australian Red Cross, said there was more demand on the charity this year than at any time since WWII.

However thanks to the public and government's generosity, it had done a raft of work including helping more than 95,000 people with financial assistance to buy food, medicine and pay bills during the pandemic and making more than 200,000 calls to check on people's welfare.

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