Homeless and vulnerable residents in the Greater Bendigo area are being kept warm this winter through a generous Royal Flying Doctor Service donation of new UNIQLO coats to the Bendigo Community Coat Drive.
The donation has allowed Bendigo Community Health Services to supply coats to organisations including Haven Home Safe, Bendigo Family and Financial Services, Mad Cow homeless cafe and community houses in Eaglehawk, Heathcote and Long Gully.
"We distribute around 2000 coats each year so this generous donation from the Royal Flying Doctor Service means we can continue to care for the homeless and vulnerable members of our community even through these uncertain times around COVID-19 and ever-changing restrictions,'' Bendigo Community Health Services CEO Gerard José said.
"These coats are high quality and will do much to help the homeless, individuals and families struggling to make ends meet through these tough winter months. We can't thank the RFDS enough for not only their interest in regional healthcare but going above and beyond by supporting our community with a donation like this."
RFDS Victoria Chief Executive Officer Scott Chapman said the challenges of 2020 had brought out the best in some people.
''In the peak of the pandemic, our wonderful partners at UNIQLO came forward to see how they could help us directly, and in our broader efforts to support Victorians in need. Following a very generous donation of surgical face masks to keep our patients and staff safe, UNIQLO offered to work with us to identify a group who may be in need of winter jackets," Mr Chapman said.
"With such a strong footprint in rural Victoria, we were aware of the incredible work done every year by Bendigo Community Health Services and knew they would be perfect to partner with for such a donation.”
Mr José said BCHS had taken quite a few calls from people wanting to donate coats to the Bendigo Community Coat Drive this year.
"We asked for cash donations last year during COVID lockdowns to keep the Bendigo Community Coat Drive going and the community was incredibly generous in allowing us to raise enough money to buy the coats we needed. We didn't want to go back to the community and ask again this year so the generosity of the Royal Flying Doctor Service has allowed us to continue the great tradition of the Bendigo Community Coat Drive," Mr José said.
"We just ask everyone to hold onto those coats until next year when we hope to return to our traditional format of gathering up second-hand coats, having these cleaned and then distributed to those in need through our sites and partners."
Health Promotion team member Siobhan sorts coats into different sizes for sending out to Bendigo agencies.
"Our Health Promotion team has done a wonderful job sorting through all the coats and getting them to agencies where we know people turn for help," Mr José said.
"These agencies do a wonderful job in supporting people in dire need so it's great that through the generosity of the Royal Flying Doctor Service we can support them in providing high quality and warm winter coats to help individuals and families."
Power's Country Express got the coats from Melbourne, stored them and helped get them out to Bendigo agencies.
Mr José said Bendigo-based courier Power's Country Express needed special mention for their role in helping to get the coats to the homeless and vulnerable including Heathcote.
"There are just some people in our community who go above and beyond when needed without fanfare or recognition and we're lucky to have them," Mr José said.
"Damien Power and the team at Power's Country Express have been truly incredible through this process. Not only did they go to Melbourne and get the coats for us but they have stored them in their warehouse and are now delivering them to places such as Haven Home Safe and Bendigo Family and Financial Services free of charge to help the community.
"Power's don't want recognition but we need to make sure people know we have such wonderful people in our community. We can't thank them enough for making such a large logistical exercise so much easier."
Communicatons and Community Engagement
Bendigo Community Health Services
(03) 5406 1229