They say that it takes a village to raise a child, and in Geelong this theory holds true. Amongst the industrial buildings in South Geelong, a beautiful act of giving is taking place. A team of around ten volunteers is sorting, packing and labelling packets of baby supplies such as clothing, nappies, as well as bulkier items such as prams and changing tables. Geelong Mums works with 500 social workers from 54 agencies to provide high quality, certified safe nursery supplies for disadvantages families in the Geelong and surrounding regions.
I spoke with Kate Kent, Geelong Mums General Manager and one of the few part-time workers on the team of this charity organisation Geelong Mums. Kate has worked in the welfare system prior to joining the Geelong Mums team. As such, she is acutely aware of the needs and disadvantages that families in Geelong face. When the organisation was founded, there was no other service like it in the Geelong region, revealing a dire necessity. Kate along with the other founders joined forces with St Kilda Mums and Jessica Macpherson to start up Geelong Mums in 2013. And this year, they are looking to expand their community of giving even further with a fundraiser called Share the Joy.
In the four years that Geelong Mums has been running, they have fostered a “happy collective” of volunteers, social workers, donors and financial supporters. “The volunteers are really the driving force,” Kate tells me, and the diversity of these volunteers is quite incredible. The organisation never advertises for volunteers, so offers usually come through social media, word of mouth and often from previous donors. Kate enthuses to me that they cannot thank enough the phenomenal supporters and donors that have helped and become part of the community. The volunteers range from fellow parents, grandparents, pregnant mums, and corporate groups who are looking to give back to the community. The warehouse even houses a play area for children of volunteers with toys, books and playmats. The volunteers dedicate entire days to Geelong Mums, and never ask for the spotlight – they do this out of love for the community.
The packages that are given to families appear like gifts, Kate tells me, “because it is a gift”. And this gift keeps giving – the children’s clothing packs contain enough sizes for up to two years. What I found so inspiring from the community that has been fostered here was the circle of giving and the generosity that repaid itself in kind. A mother in Colac was in need of a triple pram, an item that is difficult to come across and often very expensive. A family donated theirs to Geelong Mums and it was provided to Colac Area Health. After three years, another family in Geelong requested a three-seat pram – and sure enough, that same pram returned as a donation from Colac Area Health, still in excellent condition.
Many of the circumstances are unthinkable that bring families to need Geelong Mums’ services. “There’s a sad story to every case,” Kate tells me. Many of the social workers are working with parents who have experienced trauma, intergenerational disadvantage, and many are trying to escape situations of family violence. The support and care these families receive from Geelong is vital for improving their quality of life, reducing isolation for the parents and the children, and empowers parents to provide the best care possible for their little ones.
The beautifully heartfelt handwritten letters that Geelong Mums have received over the years is a touching reminder of the good that they do every day.
In the past financial year, over 5,000 babies and children have received support from the Geelong Mums community. With the money raised from the Share the Joy, Geelong Mums will be able to provide help to even more families. Beginning on the 12th of September, the online fundraising campaign will go live on Charidy for 24 hours. Every dollar that is contributed will be quadrupled by matcher pledges, meaning that a donation of $10 will be converted into $40. The funds raised from this event will go towards the leasing and occupancy costs of the warehouse next door, which will allow Geelong Mums to accept and house even more donations from the community. Every little contribution counts, so keep September 12 in your calendar and donate to this business with a big heart. You can share the love on social media with the hashtag #geelongmums and when you donate, share a photo of yourself with #sharethejoy. “This is Geelong,” Kate says, brimming with pride, “and I know we can do it.”
Story: Stephanie Downing Photo: Mary Thompson Photographer www.marythompson.com.au Follow us on Instagram and Twitter. www.humansingeelong for #humansingeelongexpo Info. Sun 8 Oct 10-3 Deakin Waterfront. Geelong Mums are one of the many inspiring groups involved.