By Aleksandra Bliszczyk
Love in Action Wallan is delivering more supplies than ever as residents across socioeconomic backgrounds struggle during lockdown.
Broadford’s Love In Action is also experiencing a higher-than-usual demand, with more requests for food donations.
The groups are collectives of community members who deliver Christmas, Easter and emergency hampers of essentials to those in need.
Wallan founders Jeremy and Sue Scrivens said last week they delivered hampers to 40 households, up from 10 in an ordinary week, adding demand had exceeded that during the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009.
“There’s extra volunteers packing and delivering this weekend because we’ve had so many instances of people losing their jobs and just general hardship through COVID,” Ms Scrivens said.
“We have seen it in past lockdowns and done more hampers but this one seems to be particularly bad [and] it’s across the board.”
“Lots of new families who’ve lost jobs, even middle class families who thought they were secure; it’s thrown them into the deep end.”
Mr Scrivens estimated the dollar value of the food delivered so far this year to be in the hundreds of thousands, some of which had recently gone to those who seemed to take pride in the fact that they had never asked for help before, but now felt like they had no other option.
“There are people reaching out for help who would not normally reach out because they’d feel a bit of shame … but they’re getting to a point where they’re so desperate,” he said.
Without the Federal Government’s Jobkeeper or Jobseeker supplement, Mr Scrivens said the community group was in ‘uncharted territory’ this lockdown.
“People are struggling to pay their bills let alone put food on the table,” he said.
“Four hundred dollars here, $500 there from the Federal Government doesn’t last very long, not when you’ve got bills – we just paid $750 for a car registration … and some people just don’t have that money,” he said.
Wallan businesses have struggled without passing traffic during the pandemic, and during the town’s long lockdowns including in 2020. The town is also home to many residents who work in Melbourne and have lost income during the other metropolitan lockdowns.
“I think a lot of businesses that have tried to do the right thing by staff are now struggling to continue to do that, so people are losing their jobs suddenly, and of course there’s people who can’t work from home, and it just seems to be a cumulative thing now,” Mr Scrivens said.
Love in Action has also seen a rise in requests for assistance relating to family violence, with four requests from people they had never dealt with previously in the past week.
Those with unstable housing are also struggling to pay rent as prices continue to increase since the State Government’s rental eviction moratorium ended on March 30.
“One other problem is there’s no community housing anymore, so a lot of our mums are in private rentals and they’re left with very little after paying the rent, there’s a few surviving on $10 or $20 a week after they’ve paid their bills, rent and petrol,” Ms Scrivens said.
Love in Action put a call out for food donations on Facebook when the current lockdown was announced on August 21, and received an ‘extraordinary’ response.
The team of between 16 and 20 volunteers usually collects donations from its drop points around Wallan every four to five days, but over the first weekend, one volunteer was called back to the Coles drop point three times in one day.
Mr Scrivens said the generosity was a testament to the 5000 members of the Facebook group and the wider Wallan community.
“People are saying to us, ‘thank god we’ve got a community that looks after each other’,” he said.
“It’s not just about food, people are offering to cut each others’ lawns, help with gardening, even help one lady bury her dog because she didn’t have $700 … so one kind family basically took that over for her. Those things all add up.”
People can join the private Love in Action Wallan Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/loveinactionwallan.
For those seeking assistance or interested in making a financial donation, contact Love in Action Wallan on 0436 457 154 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Broadford Love In Action has drop off points for food donations at Broadford IGA, Bendigo Bank Kilmore and Broadford, and Tallarook general store; or people can leave monetary donations at Victory Meats or fresh fruit and vegetables. People can contact the Broadford group on 0473 845 808.