Big Group Hug director Geraldine Camilleri, right, and fundraising and communications manger Melinda Whitehouse took a break from phone calls on their inaugural Giving Day on Friday.

By Aleksandra Bliszczyk

A City of Whittlesea-based charity supporting vulnerable children Victoria-wide raised $80,000 at a fundraiser on Friday.

For 24 hours, all donations to Big Group Hug were doubled by ‘match leaders’ – businesses and groups who matched community donations dollar for dollar.

The total tally at the end of the 24 hours was $83,470, hitting their original target of $60,000 in just eight hours.

The money will go towards materials, everything from nappies to clothes to prams, for Victorian families experiencing poverty or family violence.

On the day, eight volunteers at a time worked rotating shifts and called everyone in the organisation’s statewide network.

Big Group Hug’s fundraising and communications manager Melinda Whitehouse said the support from the community was strong, and it was a ‘phenomenal result’.

“People are not only generous with their dollars, but they’re generous with their time,” she said.

“Last year, from an array of fundraising and seeking grants with foundations and those sort of things, we were a little over $200,000 last year, which was almost double what we raised the previous year, so for us to get $60,000 puts us in a far better position than what we have been in previous years, so this is a really important day.”

Ms Whitehouse said while any non-profit organisation’s hope was their services would no longer be needed one day, demand for the Big Group Hug had been dramatically increasing.

“Unfortunately the demand for our services has significantly increased in the last 12 months, I’m sure everybody knows why, so [this money] will enable us to reach more,” she said.

“All the money is going to Big Group Hug. That will allow us to support more vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

“We provide essential material aid to children and families that are experiencing financial disadvantage, maybe experiencing domestic violence situations, refugees, a wide range of people.”

Big Group Hug has supported 11,000 children and families across Victoria since it was founded in 2014. In 2020 alone, it supported 3225 children with 82,849 essential items, either purchased by the organisation or donated by the public.

“We’re aiming to help 5000 children this calendar year, and sadly we’re on track in that we’re receiving 240 to 250 requests a month, just in Victoria,” Ms Whitehouse said.

“We want to be in a position to support every one of those families that reaches out to us and not have to say to them, ‘look we’re sorry we don’t have this’.”

Big Group Hug collects donations at its Bundoora warehouse, and financial donations via its website. More information can be found at www.biggrouphug.org.

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