By Taylah Eastwell
Every day, volunteers and staff members of the St Vincent de Paul Society see the human faces behind homelessness statistics.
Whether it be in their stores, during a face-to-face visit or at any one of their support programs, Vinnies are on the frontline, helping those who need it most.
But now, the organisation that has been helping Australians for over 100 years is asking a favour in return.
After a particularly busy lead up to winter, Vinnies stores across the state are desperately seeking donations of warm winter clothing.
Vinnies outer east area manager Evelyn Banavas said the stores find it harder to get donations in winter than summer.
“It’s a given that we really need winter clothing. Things like jackets, jumpers, knitwear, blouses, anything warm is the main criteria. Winter shoes, scarves and beanies, nice boots, those sorts of things tend to get a bit forgotten as well,” Ms Banavas said.
With stores in Lilydale, Warburton, Ringwood, and Kilsyth, Ms Banavas encouraged locals to consider emptying out their wardrobes and donating any items that weren’t often worn.
“The thing with winter is most people layer, you tend to wear things underneath jumpers but your jumpers don’t get worn as often, so they sit in the wardrobe for a long time, so we’re encouraging people them down to our stores,” she said.
“It’s one way the community can help others because the funds raised from selling items goes to programs that help people in need that may need fuel costs covered, electricity and utility costs paid, or other rent and accommodation costs,” she said.
“The money goes into the local community, directly out to people in need and we have our own welfare group that goes out and helps those in need,” she said.
Ms Banavas said in the outer east areas, such as Warburton, items such as blankets and other camping equipment would be handy for tourists and campers that visit the township.
“A general rule is, if you would give it to a friend, you could give it to Vinnies,” she said.
All Vinnies stores across the Yarra Ranges are calling for donations following Covid-19 lockdowns which meant people were not buying as much new seasonal clothing, resulting in less people clearing out their wardrobes.
Regional areas also generally experience lower temperatures to the inner-city, making the demand for warmer clothes higher in the outer-east.
Vinnies Victoria’s executive general manager of commercial services, Jeff Antcliff, said VInnies “rely wholeheartedly on the generosity of thoughtful Victorians who want to see their quality pre-loved goods go on to live new lives”.
“We know that our local communities love to help each other out, so we hope that our regional friends can find the time to go through their wardrobes and bring any cosy winter clothes they are no longer using into their nearest Vinnies Shop during opening hours,” he said.
“All profits of Vinnies Shops go back into their local communities to fund our welfare services that help people experiencing homelessness or who are struggling to put food on their tables or pay their rent, utility and medical bills. Every cent spent in a Vinnies Shop supports our good works for people in need, “he said.
Ms Banavas said the Kilsyth Vinnies store is always looking for volunteers. Anyone interested is encouraged to pop into the shop and make their interest known.