Christmas at Vinnies
The season seems out of whack after a cantankerous year but for the Society of St Vincent de Paul Canberra/Goulburn it’s just like any other Christmas.
“We recognise this year has been especially hard for people,” says Barnie van Wyk, the CEO of the Society in Canberra/Goulburn.
“After the bushfires, with COVID-19, and for the people in our Archdiocese especially, we can appreciate it’s been difficult to contribute this year.
“But we still ask people who can, to dig a little deeper.”
And many people have.
Vinnies is about two-thirds of the way to meeting its Christmas appeal target of $300,000.
It also hopes to deliver over 3000 Christmas hampers and gifts to those in need in the Archdiocese.
COVID-19 presented its challenges for Vinnies and it says recent outbreaks have emphasised the vulnerability of those seeking help.
“Even though people might be in lockdown it doesn’t mean they stopped becoming poor during it,” says area manager of Vinnies Shops Paul Quinn.
The lockdown earlier in the year began quietly as many people did not know Vinnies shops were open.
But when people realised the charity remained open, donations ramped up.
Paul says the number of people coming into Vinnies stores also gathered pace, which he attributes to people cleaning out while in isolation.
“We were able to keep many of our shops open throughout the whole period and to continue raising funds to run our programs. This meant we could still assist people who came to us for help,” he says.
Store visitor numbers are now substantially larger than pre-COVID but slightly down on the same pre-Christmas period last year.
While welcoming the support, Vinnies seeks understanding of the kind of items that can be accepted.
The dumping of material it’s not permitted to receive or is in poor repair places a burden on Vinnies and other charities.
This is especially the case for its many volunteers who process items by hand.
There is also a significant financial cost to Vinnies to process the large number of articles that cannot be accepted for legislative, health, and safety reasons.
Vinnies asks that donations be in good condition and delivered to its shops during opening hours.
Items unable to be taken include electrical goods, mattresses, baby car seats, cots and prams.
Goods that are accepted are processed in-store at Vinnies larger outlets with the excess sent to its Mitchell warehouse and distributed later throughout the store system.
The charity anticipates selling 2.4 million items across Vinnies’ 27 stores in the Archdiocese this financial year.
“When you do the numbers it takes a lot of people to process those goods,” Paul says.
For CEO Barnie van Wyk, it is all part of the charity’s mission to provide a hand up to people in need.
“During the lockdown some of the Vinnies shops and food outlets were the only places open,” he says.
“We needed to be there for people.
“We’re kind of an extension of the community.”