Starting over is tough, but it’s easier with SOS

“I shouldn’t be here, but I am. I don’t want the job, but I’m so glad we are here and we can do it, because the need in the community for support after domestic violence is so great and so agonising, we need to keep doing what we are doing,” Starting Over Support (SOS) Logistics and Distribution Coordinator Brad Ball said.

“We do this work because of our love for the community and the families that need our help.”

Brad Ball

Brad said it was incredibly tough as both a husband and a father to see the impacts of family and domestic violence (FDV) in the lives of their clients and their children.

“The reality certainly hits you at times. It is horrible to have to go out to clients and see an 8-month pregnant woman holding a small child and they are both black and blue down one side after being beaten – it is incredibly confronting and heart-wrenching, but such a powerful reminder of why we need to keep moving that truck and getting the goods out to the people,” he said.

Pictured: Brad Ball and Anne-Marie Denney at the warehouse

Starting Over Support provides much-needed care packages to families after leaving a women’s refuge and starting their lives fresh. SOS provide everything they need for their home and deliver it to them, free of charge.

SOS Social Enterprise Manager Anne-Marie Denney said the nature of the job meant that there were always so many more families to help.

“We can help so many people, but how many people can’t we get to? It’s an ongoing challenge and the need at times is too great.”

Anne-Marie Denney

Anne-Marie said the work they do with the struggling families was put into perspective when they looked at their own families and the support they receive to keep moving forwards and doing more work.

“Lots of our clients don’t have that family around them and these things we take for granted, what we can give them is such a small thing, but it means the world to them,” she said.

“We can picture a client’s future lounge-room and think about how we can make it look like a home. It’s not just a light to light up the room, it’s a beautiful item that makes someone happy and transforms their house into their home – those things really matter to our clients who have to start out again.”

Pictured: Volunteers loading up the truck for another delivery

SOS Volunteer Betty Dickson was busy stacking shelves and sorting through boxes of donations. As she packed, she talked animatedly about how she loved to do something a bit more special for the struggling families.

“I love doing the orders for the clients and I try to match and colour-coordinate the towels as best as I can so it means more when the families receive them. It’s those little things that make a difference,” she said.

“I love thinking that whatever we do here, is contributing towards something good. We have plenty and some people have nothing and that’s the sad part of the job. We can’t give people everything they want, but we can certainly give them everything they need and that’s lovely to know we can make that difference in their lives.”

Walking through the warehouse, stocked almost floor to ceiling, everything from mattresses to art to toys and appliances, every item is categorised and ready to go out to families in need.

Brad said that each item is thoroughly cleaned when it comes in to ensure that quality control.

“These people have been through trauma, so they do need a good standard in the items we provide for them,” he said.

“Our goal is to make their house a home, from placing lovely art on the wall, to a nice rug on the floor – we want our clients to feel safe, happy and comfortable and to not have to worry about those little things, and instead focus on their new life.”

Pictured: Volunteer Betty and long-time supporter Wendy

As we make our way through the warehouse, long-time supporter of SOS, Wendy Atherton and her husband Gerry come in to deliver one of their regular donations. Wendy has been donating to SOS for 12 years, and told me all about the previous Manager, Debbie Mason, as the organisation started to grow under her care.

“I was so enamoured to help SOS and to work alongside Debbie Mason – she’s a walking marvel and has given so much to the community,” she said.

“When SOS got started with Deb, she had a little two-bedroom house in Walcott Street and that’s where she stored all the items. You couldn’t walk in there and had to move carefully around the donations, but it never phased her. She was just so happy to be doing the work.”

Coming in on an exciting day, the amazing ‘True Blue’ team volunteers with Tiffany Fox and the team at Realmark had arrived for their special toy drive. The gift-wrapping station was buzzing with excited volunteers singing Christmas carols and wrapping and preparing gifts for the children of SOS.

Pictured: Tiffany with the team of ‘True Blue’ volunteers from Realmark

Executive Assistant Tiffany said this was their first year participating in the toy drive for SOS and being financial supporters already, Realmark were excited to get involved.

“What stood out to us [about SOS] was that as we sell and manage property in our industry, and we are passionate about people getting into a new home and getting a roof over their heads – especially people who have fallen on tough times,” she said.

 “We recently made a $5000 cash donation at our last event and we were so excited to be a part of the toy drive, coming up to Christmas. The staff base wanted to donate the toys, so here we are.”

Brad said with the amazing support they have received, Tiffany and the Realmark team were leading the way.

“For this many people to come in during their work day, it’s actually a really amazing thing! This is what big business should be doing and the support Realmark has given us is huge,” he said.

Pictured: One of the volunteers wrapping presents for the kids

The team have been busily preparing for Christmas, and Brad said every family they house from early November onwards gets a Christmas tree and presents for the kids.

“We give them a Christmas tree, decorations, toys – whatever they need. If we could give the kids that small smile on Christmas day, then that’s all the more reason to keep doing what we do,” he said.

“Last year, we did over 200 presents for the kids and this year with Realmark, I’m certain we are going to be doing a lot more.”

Getting down to business

The team were honoured to be able to support 115 organisations over the past year, including many women’s refuges, Anglicare and Ruah, just to name a few.

SOS is currently overwhelmed with donations and receive at least 30 car-loads a day. Brad said on average, it cost $240 to facilitate one delivery to one family in need, which equates to roughly $120,000 annually which the company currently absolves.

“Over the last financial year, we assisted 500 families, 20 plus a week, and at $240 each delivery, we need at least $100,000 a year to keep the truck running.”

Brad Ball

Brad said they were currently in the process of setting up a direct debit for people to support SOS financially on a regular basis.

“For $20 a month, you can sponsor one delivery a year, on a 12-month plan and for the price of one coffee a week, you could be a part of something so important,” he said.

SOS are a registered charity and accept financial donations big or small. Get in touch with Brad Ball on 0403 367 767 to discuss a long-term financial commitment or visit their website to find out more.

There are many ways that you can contribute and give back to your community, and great partnerships with organisations like Starting Over Support can help to build on that community spirit, cohesion and support. Support your community today with SOS.

Words by Jacqui O’Leary  

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