Our members are remarkable people. Right across NSW, more than 4,100 of these local volunteers provide food, groceries, clothing, household items, financial support and friendship to those doing it tough in their communities. They staff our Vinnies Shops, raising crucial funds for our services, and maintain our local Conferences and offices as places where anyone can drop by for support and a compassionate ear.
Members, like our volunteers, are unpaid. Members differ from volunteers in that most belong to Conferences. Most Conferences are based at Catholic churches across NSW, others are in universities, schools and attached to our services. Conferences see “charitable actions” as having a deeper sense of a “faith in action”, accompanying those doing it tough. Society members share this way of action through friendship, service, reflection and prayer. Where most of our volunteers dedicate their time to a particular service, the work of our members is broader and longer-term in nature. Members, as Vincentians, serve the needy with hope. For many members this dedicated service and accompaniment is shared over many years.
Despite being personally affected by this financial year’s bushfires and pandemic, our members continued to support their communities through thick and thin. They volunteered at bushfire evacuation and recovery centres, helping those who had lost their homes or property to access emergency financial assistance from the Society and government. People were also able to drop into our Conferences to access financial and emotional support.
During the coronavirus pandemic, we worked with our members to find new ways of offering support without physical contact. Face-to-face and personable support, offered as Visitation, has always been a hallmark of the Society, so it was challenging to transition to providing assistance over the phone and online. Yet with many of our members aged over 60, it was vital to protect their health as well as that of the people they assist.
Our members established three-way conversations with clients, energy and other service providers, helping people in need to access financial concessions during COVID-19. They made contact-free drop-offs of groceries and other supplies at the homes of elderly and disabled people, struggling families and those forced to self-isolate; and they continued to go out in our Vinnies Vans, partnering with CatholicCare to distribute snack packs for people experiencing homelessness or living in poverty. Our Vinnies Vans teams also partnered with The Salvation Army in Liverpool, St Peter’s Parish in Surry Hills, and generous donors to continue providing food and drink in specific areas of need.
We sincerely thank our members for their dedication, resilience and creativity in continuing to support their communities over this extraordinary year.