Blessed to be a blessing

4th August 2020

Pakenham’s Follow Bless Collective has received $5000 from the council to continue to support Cardinia residents who are struggling financially and have been affected by the coronavirus.  The $5000 grant will be put towards the cost of the charity’s care packs which are being distributed during the Covid-19 relief and recovery period.  The care packs contain essential non-perishable foods and toiletries and are available for individuals and families who are facing hardship.

“Receiving the grant means that, along with ongoing community donations, Follow Bless Collective will be able to continue to provide care packs until December to those who are struggling financially and have been affected by Covid-19,” Follow Bless Collective community care manager Leanne Griffiths said.

“People have been affected by Covid-19 in many ways, including loss of work, isolation, an inability to access programs and services.

“The grant will allow essential items to be purchased and provided to people who are currently needing practical support by way of food and toiletries.”

To date, 260 care packs have been distributed to individuals and families across the shire.

The Follow Bless Collective’s mission is to “strengthen the community by providing collective services, programs, support and genuine love to those who are undervalued, isolated and disadvantaged within the Cardinia shire and beyond”.

Its purpose is to care for the underprivileged, isolated and homeless; provide practical support for those in need; help make the community a better place though care, crisis assistance and social connection; collaborate with other organisations and individuals; provide opportunities for community members to serve and contribute to their community; and to redeem and transform gateway areas.

Follow has been spearheading this in conjunction with Cardinia Shire and the Church property is the drop off and pick up point for people in need in the community. Care packs are full of non-perishable food, toiletries, face masks and, of course, chocolate!  The local Sikhs have helped with the chocolate donations to be added into our care packs and many other organisations, churches and local community members have also helped provide food, knitted scarves and clothing during this time.

In addition to the care packs, there has been many other acts of kindness in the local community.  Local muslim lady, Shoheli Sunjida has provided the elderly, pregnant women, single parents, multicultural communities and small business owners with free masks.  Ms Sunjida first made masks for family and friends before extending the generous offer into the wider community.

“I had some fabrics and elastics and I have the skills to sew and a sewing machine at home, so I started making the masks … it felt good after completing about 12 masks and did not take a long time,” she explained.

“Then I thought there are people in our community who may not have access to reusable masks and single use masks are not financially feasible.”

Ms Sunjida took to social media to offer up the masks and made it clear that she wanted priority to be given to the most vulnerable community members.  Inspired by the support, Ms Sunjida will continue to create masks free of charge and will even offer Zoom training sessions so people can make their own masks from home.

“I was surprised and overwhelmed by the response that I received within 24 hours, I received hundreds of positive and encouraging comments,” she explained. “I was ready to cut my sarees to get enough fabrics for a few hundred masks.  Some people wanted to pay for the mask, but I am not taking money from anyone.  I am here to help my community in anyway possible in this difficult time and I am confident we will look after each other and come out as a stronger community on the other side because we are doing it together.”

Ms Sunjida hopes those in a position to, can donate to the Pakenham Sikh temple and the Follow Baptist Church in Officer. “They are our local heroes and are tirelessly helping people,” she said.

For more information about the care packs, donations and updates, contact the Follow Bless Collective at info@bless.org.au or check out their website at bless.org.au.