TWO community-led initiatives helping parents in need are more sought after than ever before, after several years of operation.
Mums 4 Mums Bendigo will celebrate five years at the weekend. Sunshine Bendigo is in its fourth year.
Both exist because they are meeting needs within the community. And both are venturing out into the world of sponsorship and fundraising to support what are growing services.
BENDIGO mum Sammy Lysaght has a group of more than 3000 followers at her fingertips.
A simple post in her Facebook group, Mums 4 Mums Bendigo, is all it takes for them to spring into action.
Posts contain essential information about who they're trying to help - for example, mother and two children, the children's sexes, any relevant specifications - and what's needed.
From there, the generosity flows. People volunteer their time and donate their goods, services, and money to help out families experiencing crises.
It's a system Miss Lysaght has been refining for the past five years - that's how long Mums 4 Mums Bendigo has been around.
The community group assists about 15 - 20 people a week. It's been gaining about 10 - 20 members a day for the past few months.
"Our help mostly goes to people in serious, serious need," Miss Lysaght said.
She has developed guidelines to determine who is eligible for help. They include people leaving domestic and family violence situations, parents battling with illness, proven non-payment from Centrelink, and other circumstances that can be considered severe hardship.
Everyday expenses - think car repairs and big bills - don't qualify.
Without the guidelines, Miss Lysaght said the group would just be another charitable or not-for-profit organisation.
"It's taken a lot for the community to trust me," she said.
"We're a community group, we're not an organisation, and we run on pure kindness."
Mums 4 Mums Bendigo started with less than 1000 followers and a simple idea.
"I just wanted to ensure my son's stuff went to somebody genuine," Miss Lysaght said.
"The idea has taken off."
Assistance provided extends from basic necessities - food, baby formula, nappies and so forth - to a lift to an appointment, a playgroup, and a kick-to-kick football program.
The Mums 4 Mums Bendigo community once raised money to put a community member experiencing homelessness up in a hotel room for a few nights.
Miss Lysaght said all of the services the group provided were free-of-charge for users. People volunteered their time and services to make it happen.
The group used to run pop-up op shops, where parents could grab bags of essentials for their families at no cost. Miss Lysaght said the most recent one, in May 2018, had to be held at a stadium. It attracted more than 720 families in less than four hours.
Fewer than 70 families attended the first pop-up shop.
Miss Lysaght said Mums 4 Mums Bendigo had never received a community grant. Her home is still the hub of the operation, with a pantry, a chest freezer and a shed at her disposal for storing donations.
But some things have changed - the group now has sponsors. Not being registered as a charity or organisation, Miss Lysaght said sponsors could be hard to attract. But those who were involved were loyal.
Asked whether she envisaged registering Mums 4 Mums as a charity or a not-for-profit, she said: "None of us want to see it as a job."
GLENDA Serpell's 'baby', Sunshine Bendigo, outgrew its nook in the Uniting Church Hall at Long Gully some time ago.
Finding a new and bigger premises was no mean feat for the not-for-profit organisation. But, thanks to the generosity of a Golden Square landlord, it has a commercial property at its disposal.
Sunshine Bendigo shifted to 18 Vains Street about two weeks ago. Doors to the new premises opened on June 18.
The generosity that propels the organisation flowed to assistance setting up an internal sorting room, including the donation of materials. Sign writing was also generously provided.
Sunshine Bendigo collects, sorts and redistributes new and pre-loved baby goods and nursery equipment.
While Mums 4 Mums Bendigo tends to interact directly with families in crisis, Mrs Serpell said Sunshine Bendigo had shifted towards interacting mostly with case workers and professionals working in the field, who then distributed the goods.
"Most of the beneficiaries of our service are in crisis," Mrs Serpell said.
Sunshine Bendigo's premises contains rows and rows of neatly packaged kits for babies of all sexes and age groups. There are tubs filled with toys, and other tubs filled with diapers.
Cots, prams, high chairs and car seats are among the bulkier items - the goods Mrs Serpell said many of Sunshine Bendigo's beneficiaries could not afford.
"It's the big ticket items people really struggle for," she said.
They're among the trickier items for the organisation, too, because they have a lifespan. Mrs Serpell said care had to be taken to ensure the goods would be safe and compliant with Australian standards.
Sunshine Bendigo is run by a group of volunteers and opens three days a week.
Mrs Serpell said having a premises was essential to the organisation's operation. But entering the private rental market does mean Sunshine Bendigo is giving more thought to options for fundraising.
"Our goal with this is to get sponsorship," Mrs Serpell said. Sunshine Bendigo has also launched an online fundraising appeal at givenow.com.au to assist with not only rent but utilities.
It has received a number of community grants, but the money can't be used on operating costs such as rent.
Mrs Serpell had faith Sunshine Bendigo would have sufficient support to cope with its new overheads.
"It will happen. I'm positive of that," she said.
Central Victoria is home to a number of community-led initiatives helping parents in need:
- Sunshine Bendigo collects, sorts and redistributes new and pre-loved baby goods and nursery equipment. It has an office at 18 Vains Street, Golden Square, which is open from 10am - 3pm, Tuesday - Thursday.
- Mums 4 Mums Bendigo's core purpose is assisting families, and it does so in a range of ways. Facebook is the best point of interaction.
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