Dedicated volunteers raise vital funds
The shed doors at Marymead are flung open to the sunshine. Volunteers bustle in and out, carrying huge sunhats and brightly coloured handbags, baby dolls and cocktail glasses, piles of books and a towering, tiered cupcake stand.
At a nearby table, Marymead Auxiliary president Frances Dietrich discusses last year’s fundraising activities with Assistant Treasurer Cathi Moore.
“We have raised over $120,000,” Cathi says, taking a sip of tea.
“Yes – the first year of the pandemic was $97,000, which was our highest amount to date, then $117,000 the next year and now we are even going higher,” Frances said.
The two women chat easily, finishing one another’s sentences, sharing memories and laughing often.
The conversation skips lightly past the Auxiliary’s momentous annual contribution to Marymead.
For Marymead CatholicCare Canberra & Goulburn CEO Anne Kirwan, however, the Auxiliary, which has provided valuable fundraising support since 1966, is priceless.
“They have for decades supported Marymead and its various services and programs, raising funds to be distributed to support children and families where there was a critical need and a lack of financial support or opportunity,” she said.
“Their efforts make a real difference to the lives of people at risk in our community.”
It is all quite simple, according to the women of the Auxiliary.
“Every dollar we bring in is a dollar Marymead didn’t have before,” Cathi said.
“We grab whatever opportunity we are given to make money.”
In the 60’s, the Auxiliary held glamourous debutante balls and dinner dances. In the 90’s, the innovative group initiated a major tennis day, fashion parades and morning teas. Today, they run what is possibly the biggest garage sale in Canberra, amongst a host of other activities and events.
“Lots of people love a bargain,” Cathi explained.
“People love to have a look, have a shop. There is a culture of recycling. We notice much younger people coming these days, attracted by the clothes.”
“That first garage sale after lockdown, we had 500 people come through just between 9am and 12,” Frances added.
“We were probably the first to come back when we could. We were quite adventurous. We counted one hundred people in and out, over and over. People were just desperate to come back.”
It isn’t just about raising funds though; the Auxiliary has built its own vibrant community.
“It is the people in the Auxiliary that make it what it is – I can still remember the person who welcomed me,” Frances said.
“The group of women are just lovely. There is no politics, nothing.”
“There is no pressure,” Cathi agreed.
“You can volunteer around family life and travel. There is never a demand on you to be here.”
“But it’s not only that – it’s the families and the husbands and the kids who support the garage sales,” Frances said.
“There are the craft ladies that do craft at home, and the plant ladies that come in once a week and the baking that is done for different functions. It is all those contributions.”
The plants, in particular, have firmly established a dedicated following.
“The gardening group has developed the most fantastic nursery – they have people who grow and then donate,” Cathi said.
“They earned us $40,000 last year just on their own. When you consider plants are sold for $3 or $4 each, that is quite a lot of plants to go to raise that amount of money.”
The opening of Marymead’s Azure Retirement Village further boosted Auxiliary numbers.
“People in the retirement village have joined the Auxiliary – some come up every Monday and volunteer in the garden area,” Cathi said.
“The woodworkers have made benches for the garden, women in the village bake – the community spreads itself. It creates activities for a lot of people who don’t have to be here all the time but can still contribute as they age.”
“The people who contribute know they are helping a good cause,” Frances said.
“I think people in the community are searching for a way to contribute. It is amazing what comes out when you put the word out.”
Mrs Kirwan said funds raised in 2022 would support children and families in crisis at risk of homelessness or family breakdown.
“Funds raised by the Auxiliary allow us to meet new and emerging needs, or to plug gaps where funding isn’t sufficient or simply doesn’t exist,” she said.
“And, of course, our sheds are always open for staff working with vulnerable children,” Frances added.
“Every now and then, someone will come on a Friday afternoon and tell us they have a child who has been removed from a certain situation. They can go in and get clothes, linen, a book, some toys – whatever they need.”
“Knowing that child has something to wear and read and cuddle that night – those are the moments that make it all worthwhile,” Cathi said.
“That’s why we do what we do.”
The Marymead Auxiliary is always open to volunteers – both long-term and one-off. Please register your interest via firstname.lastname@example.org or 1800 427 920.
- The Summer Garage and Plant Sale will be held on Saturday, 18 February, from 9am to 1pm at Marymead, 255 Goyder St, Narrabundah, ACT.