Donations in isolation for fire-affected

Donations in isolation for fire-affected

Have you been undergoing a spring clean this autumn while the community practices isolation? Do you have items you no longer need that might be of use to someone else in these difficult times? GIVIT is an online donation platform that could see such items reach right where they need to go, and all without you needing to leave home.

Relatively new to Victoria, GIVIT is a national online charity that connects generous Australians who want to donate items, services or cash with people in need. Since 2009, more than 1.7 million items have been donated through GIVIT - including people affected by bushfires, flooding, poverty and now coronavirus. It is the Victorian Government’s official charity donation partner, and since February 2020 has coordinated a variety of items needed as part of its VIC Fires Appeal.

GIVIT Victoria engagement officer, Lisa Herbert, has been coordinating vital donations of items to better support East Gippsland households and farmers recovering from the bushfires.

“GIVIT is so good right now because it’s all online and that’s how most of us are working as we stay in isolation because of the coronavirus,” Lisa said.

“It has been in operation for about a decade in Queensland, helping with emergency situations, and this year the Victorian Government brought it onboard to coordinate donations post fire.

“GIVIT is easy to work with, whether you’re a support organisation or charity or someone who has something to donate. Support organisations, like Rotary or neighbourhood centres, are our eyes and ears and can identify what is needed in the community. Or you may have noticed Aunty Mary is not doing too well and needs a washing machine. Suggest that she contact a registered organisation and a washing machine could very well be available.

“GIVIT does not instruct where the donations go. It is online and the portal does its internet thing and matches the donations with who needs them. It’s easy for organisations to register. They’re screened and once registration is complete we rely on them to look on the portal for items that are needed and then ensure the donation gets to where it needs to go.

“Donations could be anything. A washing machine, blankets, a bed, or clothes the kids have grown out of. Donations are stored in the GIVIT virtual warehouse and when they’re matched the organisation or charity they’re matched with then facilitates their deliver.

“After the fires there were sheds and storage facilities overflowing with donated goods, but they weren’t necessarily what people needed. A bed is no good without a house to put it in. So GIVIT ‘stores’ the donations and they go where they need to go the first time, not to an overflowing shed where they’re wasted.”

Money donated also goes where it is needed, 100 per cent of it. As a government mandated charity, all GIVIT running costs are covered by the government, so donors can be assured their money is going where they expect it to go.

“After the fires, people like the Duchess of Cornwall and Pink gave us shout outs, so we have money available to go to assist fire-affected communities too,” Lisa said.

“Schools in the regions affected are using the isolation time to their advantage and preparing to make the schools inviting for when the kids go back. With the funds available to us we’ve helped provide chicken wire for replacing chicken coops, straw for the veggie garden and for the kids to make scarecrows. This might not sound like a big deal to some, but for the kids and the school, it certainly is.”

Lisa said purchases made to support communities are, wherever possible, made within the affected communities.

“Purchasing these items locally helps keep these places in business and keeps wages being paid,” she said.

GIVIT recently purchased $14,500 worth of chainsaws and generators in Orbost. Lisa headed into Orbost Power Equipment to buy the five generators and four chainsaws that were requested by the East Gippsland Rotary Fire Aid Committee. Most will be given to bushfire affected prop-erty owners with Rotary keeping one generator and one chainsaw for its working group.

Chairperson of East Gippsland Rotary Fire Aid Committee, Pearl Finlay-James, said the equipment is essential for the region’s post-fire clean up.

“People don’t understand that without power to the site, no work commences. The chainsaws are needed for cleaning up the land - we’ve seen so many fallen trees and others are about to be ‘widowmakers’ if they’re not taken down quickly,” she said.

“The generators will allow them to use their power tools and even run lights at night while they’re doing cleanups and fencing. The people receiving these have lost literally everything in the fires. Up until now we’ve been relying on generous tradies to lend us their gear when we go out and do working bee cleanups. It will help immensely.”

GIVIT is encouraging more Gippsland charities to register for the free online donation platform, so they can access items to best support bushfire relief in their communities.

“I’d never heard of GIVIT until Lisa Herbert spoke at a meeting convened by East Gippsland Shire Council,” Pearl said.

“I spoke with the Rotary committee and they thought it sounded a bit too good to be true, but I registered with GIVIT and just one week later, here we are - I’m surrounded by donated generators and chainsaws! Christmas has come early. It’s just fantastic. These tools will make a big difference to people’s lives.”

Local charities are also facing extra challenges in the bushfire recovery effort due to COVID-19 health measures, with some groups needing to ‘pause’ their services.

Due to the safety of coordinating via GIVIT’s virtual warehouse, donations of grocery and fuel vouchers to struggling households have continued with rural groups such as Community Housing Ltd in Bairnsdale.

“The support in our rural region has been invaluable during the challenges presented due to COVID-19. Local charities have closed to ensure safety of their staff, and GIVIT has been able to step in and assist where we’ve not been able to,” Sharna Gibbons, of Community Housing Ltd’s private rental assistance program said.

Registered charities and community groups with GIVIT can reserve donated items, or request specific items not already pledged that are needed by the people and communities they support.

For further information visit the GIVIT website.

IMAGE: East Gippsland Rotary Fire Aid Committee chairperson, Pearl Finlay-James, and GIVIT Victorian engagement officer, Lisa Herbert, with generators and chainsaws purchased in Orbost through GIVIT donations to assist the region with post bushfire cleanup. (PS)