MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Rosie Batty has become the ambassador of Friends with Dignity and will attend the Magical Christmas Gala Charity Ball on Saturday, November 17.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Rosie Batty has become the ambassador of Friends with Dignity and will attend the Magical Christmas Gala Charity Ball on Saturday, November 17. D N White,D N White

Charity celebrates volunteers and 400th home

FRIENDS with Dignity has a lot to celebrate at this year's inaugural Magical Christmas Gala Charity Ball on Saturday, November 17.

Firstly, director Julia McKenna said, organisers want to give their dedicated volunteers (the majority of whom are Seniors) and supporters a pat of the back, because "they're the ones who really make all this happen".

"All this" includes the Gold Coast-based charity in three years having just completed its 400th sanctuary for people escaping domestic violence situations, having been named the 2018 Charity of the Year in September, and last month bringing former Australian of the Year Rosie Batty on board as its ambassador.

Rosie has been confirmed as special guest at the ball at the Southport Sharks Events Centre, and will be signing her book as well as speaking with guests, and enjoying the live band.

"It's wonderful to have her; she has a very large following and is such a powerhouse," Julia said of the woman who through her personal tragedy became the face of the domestic violence campaign in Australia.

Rosie said she wanted to lend her support to help the charity spread to other areas and states of Australia, recognising that it had identified a very practical way to support those affected.

"My goal is to help raise awareness and draw attention to the valuable work Friends with Dignity is doing to help support victims at the lowest points of their lives," she said.

Friends with Dignity is 100 per cent volunteer-driven, self-funded and reliant on donations of new and pre-loved whitegoods, furniture and household items from the community to fit out homes or "sanctuaries" for men, women and children leaving refuge to start a new life.

"Our volunteers are unbelievable; they are so dedicated and wanting to give back to these people who have been through so much trauma - it's very uplifting," Julia said.

In some cases, they have completed up to two sanctuaries a week, transforming an empty shell of a house into "a lovely home put together with love and care".

Julia said that sadly, almost everyone today was touched by domestic violence either personally or through friends, family or neighbours.

Research shows that one in three women and one in five men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

Because of this, there was a groundswell of feeling that people wanted to help, but in many cases didn't know how to do so.

"This is one easy way to either volunteer yourself or donate funds or goods, and you can see quite quickly what is achieved and that you are making a difference," Julia said.

Friends with Dignity works on a referral basis through registered agencies such as refuges who let them know that someone has found accommodation and what they need to re-establish themselves.

"Of course they've generally left home with nothing but the clothes on their back," Julia said.

Within seven days, Friends with Dignity is able to source everything material that person or family needs, from beds and Manchester to fridges and toothpaste, through contacts and social media.

Photos of the house interior 'before' and 'after' are posted on social media, but the recipients' names and privacy are always kept confidential.

"We get a lot of donations from Seniors who are downsizing and don't need items or sometimes a whole room of furniture anymore, which is wonderful," Julia said.

All items except kettles, toasters, chopping boards and toiletries can be secondhand, with the proviso that they are in such good condition that "you would give it to your best friend".

To volunteer or donate, call 1300 512 393, go to www.friendswithdignity.org.au, or find them on Facebook, where, with storage an issue, there is always a list of items urgently required.

*With Christmas not far away, volunteers are also asking for new toys for kids aged 0-17 and pamper items for men and women. Email donate@friendswithdignity.org.au for more details and your closest drop-off point.


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