Uniting Barwon Summer Newsletter

February 2022

Hello! Welcome to the Uniting Barwon Summer Newsletter 2022 – an opportunity for the volunteers and staff of Uniting Barwon to pause and share their successes, news, and updates.

We’re running a Volunteer Engagement Survey from 14 February – 7 March 2022.

In the survey we’ll ask volunteers to share what they think and feel about volunteering for Uniting.

The whole survey should only take about 10 to 15 minutes. Given how useful the information will be in identifying where our strengths are and where we need to improve, we hope you will agree that it is a good use of your time.

The more people that complete the survey, the greater confidence we can have that the results reflect our situation.

Volunteering Victoria is running the survey for us using their Vol Poll tool. They will  de-identify and aggregate people’s responses before supplying reports back to Uniting.

You can complete the survey here.

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

A huge congratulations to Leonie Hunt for being one of the five winners in the Volunteer of the Year Awards (VOYA) 2021!

Here’s what Leonie had to say about winning the VOYA Award and about volunteering with Uniting:

I feel very privileged and fortunate to be a successful candidate amongst many very deserving people for the Volunteer of the Year Award. I initially came to Uniting to gain experience in a reception role but since starting in March 2020 my journey both professionally and personally has been greater than I ever could have imagined. This has only been made possible by having a wonderful team that works well together led by management that are supportive and encouraging.

Since June 2021 I have been volunteering fulltime and taking on the extra tasks of interviewing, food room, senior admin and program support. The extra responsibilities have been invaluable professionally and fulfilling on a personal level. Barwon has such great need and to be able to make a difference in someone’s life is very rewarding. As we headed towards Christmas I took on the role of helping to coordinate the Christmas Appeal. We provided hampers and toys/vouchers for over 1,000 consumers! Our small team of volunteers worked tirelessly and should be proud of what we achieved. I’m sure everyone’s efforts with the appeal helped make Christmas brighter for all.

I would recommend volunteering to everyone as the rewards are never ending both professionally and personally. Not only do you gain a sense of achievement and purpose but you feel a part of the community. The skills and confidence you gain are so beneficial as well as the friendships. Uniting has become my family and I’m sure the friendships made will last a lifetime. Uniting will always have a special place in my heart for how it has changed my future.

Image: Leonie, right, receiving her VOYA award

The Geelong West and Point Lonsdale Op Shops have got off to a fast start to 2022. The Geelong West Shop trading every business day over December and January and Point Lonsdale trading every day during December and January except for the 25th and 26th December and Sundays. These two shops are direct opposites in many ways.

Geelong West is Uniting Barwon’s biggest shop and Point Lonsdale is our smallest shop. Geelong West has large front windows that are used for displays and Point Lonsdale has no front windows. At this time of year the Geelong West area is quiet and subdued with lots of people away on holidays and at Point Lonsdale there are thousands of people who have come to this small town to enjoy seaside holidays in this very picturesque part of the World.

A Big thank you to the Geelong West and Point Lonsdale Op Shop Workforces for all their hard work during the December and January period. The additional funds generated will be able to be added to the Barwon Op Shop funds that go to provide meals to those who are hungry in the Barwon Community and to help housing to be provided to those who are homeless. Well done.

All the very best to everyone for 2022 and may all the Barwon Op shops be able to generate lots of funds that can be used to assist those in the Barwon community who are experiencing disadvantage, hardship, and poverty.

Christmas Program 2021

 What a send-off to 2021 we had! It was a very successful Christmas program and a whole heap of fun distributing hampers and toys just before Christmas.

With the help of our partnerships with Commonwealth Bank, Geelong Advertiser and Grovedale Neighbourhood house, we assisted over 1,000 consumers for Christmas across Norlane and Grovedale and packed and distributed about 300 Christmas hampers!

A huge thank you to all volunteers who helped during the lead up to Christmas – what a mammoth task it was!

After the mad rush in December, January felt like a breeze… our ER coordinators weren’t sure what to do with themselves! Just joking… there’s always something keeping us busy. We’ve started off the year with a new online voucher process and are completing our transition to more paperless systems – which is exciting for some more than others.

Thank you to the whole team for being so supportive of the changes and open to constantly making adjustments to the way you work. We really do believe this will be streamlining our operations and providing a higher quality service.

Education Assistance Program

Our education team had record numbers and record expenditure this year in the lead up to Christmas!

We had 366 Students from 251 Parents as at Tuesday 18th January and have committed $84,000 in expenditure for school uniforms, school fees and textbooks. We will be slowing down our interviews now, with the last of the funding helping schools who identify any students in need as school starts up again.

A huge congratulations to the Education team for another very successful and smoothly operated program. What a committed and inspiring team.

No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS)

We have also restarted our own onsite NILS service in Grovedale. Jo, currently holding down the fort by herself, has been doing a tremendous job in taking NILS referrals whilst basically training herself on the job.

Since we have started referring consumers straight to Jo, we are seeing an increase in the number of requests coming through Grovedale, thus would gladly accept any new volunteers who are up for the challenge!

Volunteers Needed

Our Norlane site will also be in need of some new volunteers in interviewing and food room, so if any of you have friends/family that are interested in volunteering – send them our way!

Consumer Story

Dear Uniting Team,

I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to you for supporting both my children right through High School with such generosity, compassion and care.

My son has just completed Year 12, after navigating a very challenging time over the last two years through the Pandemic. I hope he feels suitably proud of himself for persevering through such a tough time of extended lockdowns, months of home schooling, finally returning onsite to school and completing his VCE exams.

My daughter won a scholarship when she completed school in 2018 with an ATAR score of 96 that allowed her to study a double Law and Arts Degree at Swinburne University. She has just completed her third year of study there.

You have always been so generous and welcoming, and have offered such dignity to me when I have attended interviews with you for assistance with schoolbook costs, uniforms and shoes for my son and daughter.

I would like to sincerely thank you and offer immense gratitude for the support you have given us.
It has made a huge difference to my daughter and son throughout their high school years.

I try to instil in them values of generosity, compassion and kindness as your organisation so beautifully promotes. I know they will carry the generosity they have been shown forward.

Thank you so much dear Uniting. We are blessed to have you supporting so many of us in the Community.

We have had one week back at Kinder for the year and are currently working on our sense of belonging to both our Kinder groups and the Kinder, St Luke’s as a whole. This year, we have introduced Japanese names to our Kinder groups as we are engaged in the Early Childhood Language Program, teaching Japanese.

To assist the children to learn these names, and to establish their sense of belonging, we have used our hands to create a group art project which includes a tree branch with blossoms for ‘Sakura’ (cherry blossom) group and a rainbow or ‘niji’ for our other group. This is on display in the Kinder room for all to enjoy.

Pets in the Park

The next Pets in the Park clinic is on 5 March 2022 at
10 Wendover Avenue Norlane. The vet clinic is a free pop-up service that provides preventative care for pets for people experiencing homelessness, such as sleeping rough, sleeping in cars, in crisis and transitional accommodation, couch surfing, or in caravan parks.

The vets provide: vaccinations, worm and flea treatments, microchipping, nail cutting and welfare checks. Clinics are held on the first Saturday of each month from 1pm to 3pm.


Consumers are referred to Uniting Barwon from Geelong Office of Housing, Salvo Connect Entry Point, Salvo Connect Family Violence Private Rental Program, Haven Home Safe, Barwon Health, Uniting’s Emergency Relief Interviewers, Word of Mouth and Uniting Barwon Church Congregations.

For the month of December there were several Support Coordinators from NDIS agencies inquiring about housing options for their participants. There is also a growing trend of older people being homeless with several our clients aged between 50 and 70.

Good news stories

Amongst the homeless consumers who presented for assistance at the Norlane office in December 2021, one was provided with a tent, sleeping bag, food, pillow, solar light and was linked into Neami Toward Home Plus. A 40-year-old lady was provided with clothes, a suitcase, toiletries, a share the dignity handbag, food, and two nights emergency accommodation at the Colonial Motel was arranged.

Six night’s site fees at the El Dorado Caravan Park were paid for a 45-year-old male living in his car. He has a caravan, 2 dogs and no income and is paying off the caravan at $500 per fortnight but has no money left for site fees. His social worker is trying to fund him to stay at a Caravan Park in Lorne where he can get work.

A 64-year-old male, with his dog, had been evicted from the industrial shed he had been living in. As he has his own caravan, one week’s site fees were paid to help him relocate, as well as 2 petrol vouchers and a Coles voucher. He has been referred to Wintringham for housing.

A 62-year-old professional lady, with her 17-year-old dog, who had been living in her car for six nights, was offered accommodation for two nights at the Corio Bay Motel in a pet friendly room and then referred to and supported with moving into Ingenia Gardens Retirement Village. $600 was provided as part payment of $1524 for the rental bond loan. The consumer moved into permanent housing on Christmas Eve.

A 30-year-old woman who presented with only the clothes on her back and no shoes as she had been locked out of home by way of an IVO, was provided with clothes, a tent, sleeping bag, solar light, thermos, a share dignity handbag, food and referral to Haven for a shared room that was available at Smythe Place. She moved in and was taken to Encompass to purchase furniture, linen, and a kitchen package. She was so happy to have a roof over her head. With the support of Uniting Barwon she can now move forward and focus on getting her life on track.


Thank you to everyone who has logged on to ULearn and commenced the training modules. A reminder for those of you who need an off-line version we have hard copies available for each site.

Uniting does not expect you to undertake training modules outside of your usual volunteer shifts or time commitment and we will continue to encourage you to complete the modules/reading within your regular shifts.

Help is available.

Contact the Volunteer Services help line by emailing volunteers@vt.uniting.org or phoning 0421 943 030 during business hours or ask your Team Leader or IT savvy fellow volunteers.

Local Feedback

Thanks to Carolyn Kerger from the Highton Op Shop for her feedback that the manual was interesting reading, especially the unconscious bias section.

Elizabeth Hopkin, Coordinator of Volunteers Barwon

Des Younghusband, Uniting Team Leader – Retail Barwon

Theone van der Merwe, Coordinator, Emergency Relief, Grovedale

Karen Mather, Coordinator, Emergency Relief, Norlane

Lyn Fitzgerald, Housing and Homelessness Worker Barwon

Emma Lane, Team Leader – St Luke’s Preschool