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Supporting communities in COVID crisis

8 Sep 2021

The Ross Trust is providing desperately needed emergency assistance to Victorian communities that are heavily impacted by COVID. 

The regional city of Shepparton, north of Melbourne, was the centre of a COVID cluster in August 2021, with more than one-third of the population placed into lockdown. 

In what is an already disadvantaged area, many people who were sent home from work and school with little notice literally had no food to put on their tables. 

The Ross Trust provided the Greater Shepparton Lighthouse Project with $15,000 to assist with food supplies and to set up additional sites for distribution. The project’s executive officer Lisa McKenzie says more than 250 volunteers gathered, packed, and despatched food and essential goods for locked-down households.

“Many people didn’t have access to their normal support networks through families, neighbours, schools or workplaces as those people were also in lockdown,” she said. “Supermarkets had lost staff so were having trouble keeping up with demand and click and collect arrangements.” 

Ms McKenzie said the organisation was inundated when it first published an offer of support on social media after news of the cluster was announced. 

“We tapped into a huge demand and had to act really quickly,” she said. “The funds from The Ross Trust have largely gone towards fresh fruit and vegetables as well as specific items such as nappies and baby formula. We’re very grateful for all financial support.” 

In Melbourne’s south, the Trust has provided $75,000 since 2020 in separate grants to the Western Port Community Support organisation. Most of the funding has gone towards expanding the hours of a specialist who works intensively with vulnerable families. 

The organisation’s executive officer Georgia Hourn says the funding enables the support worker to be available an extra two days a week.  

“It has made a huge difference, especially in the early months of COVID in 2020,” she said. “People were just in turmoil, not knowing what the pandemic was going to mean for jobs, housing, and education so the program was particularly busy.” 

Ms Hourn says her organisation has a long-standing relationship with The Ross Trust and is very grateful for its support. 

“COVID is having a significant impact on disadvantaged people in our region and the funding for both the worker and general support is making a real difference,” she said. 

“We have a lot of people without housing crisis and with ongoing unemployment – we can use funding to pay for whatever they might need, whether it’s paying for ID documents to apply for government support, or car registration because they are without a home, psychology appointments because they can’t get into bulk-billed local counselling.

“Philanthropy is absolutely vital - there is no way government funding would cover the needs of our community. It would be diabolical.”