As the founder of Ripple Kindness Project, I’m keen to be actively involved in caring for my local community, so I’m a member of several committees designed to help improve lives or offer support to people who are struggling financially or emotionally. I’m also part of the “chaplaincy” or student well-being committee at my boy’s primary school (though they are both now in secondary) which has given me great insight into the daily struggles some families face.
Though Ripple has helped with Christmas goodies and other school fundraiser ideas in the past, this year, I decided to put the word out to the community to widen the ripple and make it a much happier time for as many as possible.
The aim was to support the school Chaplain by providing gifts for his most vulnerable families and also help some friends who work with people experiencing homelessness or are at risk of ending up on the street by providing backpacks filled with essentials and Christmas treats.
Holy Fools informed me of their plan to provide lunch for around 80 clients on Christmas Day and were thrilled by the idea of receiving backpacks, but they were also sourcing gifts. So too was the Redwood Centre, so I decided we should try to provide gifts for them as well and aimed high at 50 backpacks and 150 gifts.
Though it was a lot, I was confident that with the community’s support, we’d be able to reach our target for gifts, but to be honest, was a little concerned about obtaining that many backpacks! It wasn’t what was going inside that was proving a challenge, but the packs themselves as none of the manufacturers or shops I approached were able to help out. So, I posted the plan on the internet a few months before Christmas and waited to hear back from the community.
I immediately received messages from people who wanted to volunteer their time to help source items and help pack and wrap when the time came. It wasn’t long until I had over a dozen volunteers. The team and I set to work posting, emailing and making calls. Now we just needed the community and local businesses to come through with the goodies we needed.
A local real estate agent, Methven Real Estate and a Community Centre, agreed to act as drop off points for public donations as they had earlier in the year when we ran our Winter Warmer’s Community Clothing Collection.
A local teacher saw the flyer online and saw it as a perfect project for her year 5 and 6 students who had been studying homelessness and helping others throughout the year. Briony asked her children if they’d like to end the year by taking part in fundraising and buying gifts for our project. It was a unanimous yes, so I went to visit the students to chat about what we were doing and why, and to answer any questions they had. After our chat, the kids and I went outside to create positive messages and happy drawings for the rest of the school for World Kindness Day.
We were starting to receive responses from some of the businesses we’d emailed with several mind blowing donations coming in.
Hoping to put socks in our backpacks, I’d emailed several businesses asking if they could spare 50 pairs. The same day, a response from Belvedere Hoisery came with an offer of 6 boxes of seconds. Not know how many socks that was, you can imagine how excited we were to receive over 2,000 pairs! My jaw dropped to the floor when I saw the size of the boxes and how beautiful the socks were. It warmed my heart knowing we were now going to be able to provide as many fresh new socks for the winter months as we could fit in our packs.
A few weeks later there was a knock at the door at my home and I was gobsmacked to find the delivery man had 27 boxes of beautiful, natural shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and deodorant for us. Incredibly, this amazing donation had come from several states away. The driver and I looked at the huge pallet that was sitting in the middle of my driveway and he asked where it had to go. I told him it was okay, I’d load it all into the house during the day. His response was that if someone could be kind enough to help us with such a generous donation, the least he could do was help me carry the boxes up the stairs and into the house. I hugged this beautiful man when we were finished, closed the door and started jumping up and down and squealing with sheer delight at this unbelievable kindness. I immediately called A Bit Hippy and thanked them with tears of joy streaming down my face.
Another amazing donation was a box of beautiful, organic soaps packs from Organic Formulations. I use and love their products so was very excited to receive 50 packs of their yummy soaps.
Still concerned about the lack of backpacks, a friend who runs yarraranges.tv suggested we make a short video to promote what we were doing and raise awareness of the need and how people could help.
Ian’s time and effort was appreciated so much and we can’t thank him enough for being so patient with us while we bloopered and giggled filming it. We even had some girl scouts come watch as we were in the park and they later told us they knew all about what we were doing because they’d just been to donate some goodies to Methven Real Estate.
The video seemed to do the trick and as the word got out, I was receiving more and more calls from our drop off points to come and collect. In just a few short months, I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of donations I was picking up. There was one particular day after I’d made 4 trips that I sat in my kitchen that looked more like a warehouse and cried. It was all too much being surrounded by so much love and generosity. People were quite obviously aware of the incredible need in the community and just wanted to help.
A beautiful couple from Wandin Rotary Club dropped off a hamper and money for us to buy gifts for specific children on our list after a friend had mentioned what we were doing. These were strangers, people I’d never met who just wanted to make someone smile at Christmas.
We had the support of two yoga studios who teach their students that giving is the basis of a truly happy life. One teacher asked her students not to give her a Christmas gift, but to instead buy for a few of the families on our list. The other asked her students to help with food and festive treats and were able to contribute a huge amount to the Holy Fools lunch. A heartfelt thank you for the love and support, Michelle from Total Yoga For You and Anne-Maree from Ulysses Natural Healing.
The donations were now coming fast and I was out picking up lovely surprises on a regular basis. Here is just a little of what we received.
We were so incredibly fortunate. Our facebook page reached people from around the globe who purchase books through our affiliate link with the Book Depository which gave us a little commission to put towards gifts. These books were send from the United States and Canada by incredible people with giving hearts. The photo above was a gift received in the mail from one of our followers in another state in Australia.
We even received 50 free pizza vouchers from the most amazingly, giving man in Croydon. Greg is the owner of Big Mates Pizza and lives by the philosophy that Giving is Living. He started Jazzy’s Gift, a charity for a local girl with Autism.
We desperately wanted to add some Christmas yummies to our backpacks, so two beautiful friends stepped up and volunteered to make goodies. Jules from Tasty Az is one of the busiest and most giving ladies I know working with people with special needs to help them flourish and grow. Shantell loves to bake and is always helping out in the community in some way. She lovingly made and wrapped over 50 individual Christmas cakes.
To say this has been a heartwrenching journey is to put it lightly. The generosity of people has been far greater than I could ever have expected. It’s just amazing what we were able to achieve and how many people we were able to provide gifts for. My early fears that we wouldn’t reach our target were not justified.
And so the time came to fill our backpacks and wrap our gifts. My house was full to the brim and there just wasn’t enough space to spread out and start sorting through the mountains of boxes. So in steps yet another wonderful organization in Croydon who offered us their premises. Not only did they lend us their wonder big room and provide supper, but their employees had also given up their Kris Kringle and put the money they would have spent in a gift box. I was incredibly touched by their kindness when it was presented a week or so earlier. With the money from Le Pine Funerals, my son and I went shopping in Smiggle and Kmart for some last minute gifts for kids on our list.
My incredible husband (with a sore back, I might add) helped me pack the van and car and off we set for Le Pine full of excitement to finally see all that we had spread out. We met my wonderful friend Tim there who’d organized the use of the room and together we set up the room and unloaded all of our goodies.
It was an epic evening. Seventeen wonderful, giving souls arrived at 7pm and most didn’t leave until after midnight. The place was buzzing with an amazing production line of packing and wrapping going on. As soon as we’d filled enough boxes with gifts, my hubby started loading them into the van and off he set to restack our home until they could be delivered. He worked all night, driving back and forth.
We even had wonderful Hannah and Helen who must have had terrible writers cramp by the time they left with all the cards they wrote.
There was chatting and laughing, new friends were made and everyone left feeling very tired, but on top of the world with what we’d achieved.
Over the next week or so, my sons helped me distribute the remainder of the 320 gifts and 67 filled backpacks that weren’t collected by agencies and schools.
At the end of the day, we were proud to be able to help the following schools and organizations provide gifts and essentials to those in need:
John Vander Velde, Chaplain at Bimbadeen Heights Primary School, Mooroolbark.
Pembroke Primary School, Mooroolbark
(for privacy reasons, we were unable to take photos as the gifts my son and I delivered directly to 4 families nominated by the school).
Gill Van Der Ende, Chaplain, Kilsyth Primary School, Kilsyth
(this one was a last minute rush as we had so many extra gifts, so we didn’t have time for a decent photo).
Neal Taylor and Tim Heenan, Holy Fools, Lilydale.
The Redwood Centre, Warburton
Helen Pentecost and Simon Williams, Eastern Health’s Aboriginal Health Team, Healesville.
The People’s Pantry, Mooroolbark.
Steve, HICCI, Healesville.
There was one brave mum who heard about our project and emailed to ask for support as her children were going to experience a very bleak Christmas. My son and I delivered lots of gifts for her and her children. We received a note of thanks. See it HERE.
Click here to read about the amazing students who raised money to purchase gifts for families in need.