As a St Kilda dad, I often hear other parents discussing the excellence of St Kilda Mums. It took a while to realise I wasn’t being discriminated and that St Kilda Mums is in fact a pioneering local charity. St Kilda Mums gifts bundles of baby and child essentials to families that really need them. They might be a refugee child, someone born to a mother with a disability, or a little girl or boy who's escaped domestic violence.
I wanted to go along and see for myself what goes on behind the doors of their large warehouse on Vale Street, St Kilda. Founder and CEO Jessica Macpherson, bursts through the doors with a warm smile and an impressive energy given that it is a cold, Monday morning in May. I note that Jessica is clutching an All Blacks lunch box, a hint towards her New Zealand upbringing.
I get a sense that time is a precious commodity at St Kilda Mums and they use every last drop wisely. There is an impressive hum of activity as volunteers get to work; sorting and packing immaculate bundles ready for collection from social workers and maternal child and health nurses across Victoria. Every bit of floorspace is used, piles and piles of carefully packaged and labelled bundles full of everything a young child may need, from toys and prams to clothes and cots. It’s a Santa’s Grotto right here in St Kilda.
It all started in 2009 when a group of five mums were attending the St Kilda Maternal and Child Health Centre on Chapel Street. They noticed baby goods stacked high in the photocopying room that had been donated by local parents. Jessica, a lady who I suspect was born to ‘do’, volunteered to sort, launder and package the goods ready for families to enjoy. As they’ve grown they’ve gone from operating from their own verandas, to a donated double garage, to the more spacious warehouse they now call home.
There is a dignity in the way they go about their work. They don’t gift anything they wouldn’t be comfortable giving to their own children. Clothing is diligently sniffed and stain checked. Car restraints are safety checked and cleaned. Cots are checked to ensure all parts are present. Toys are sifted through to sort safe from the unsafe. They want to delight the new owners with items that are high quality, safe, clean and functioning.
There is an emphasis on reuse of donated items, everything that can be reused is. Whilst they accept all donated goods, they are unable to reuse some, because they simply do not meet safety standards. In that instance, they will recycle. Whilst they don’t want the unsuitable goods, they will not refuse to take them, to do so might mean unsafe items will simply be used elsewhere or they will be dumped on a kerb near you. Southern Cross Recycling Group dispose of their recyclables, a service that is currently cost neutral, if that was to change and they incurred a cost, it would be a big problem.
Last year 40,000 items were diverted from landfill in the most wonderful way imaginable, to improve the lives of approximately 17,000 children in need. Volunteer inductions emphasise the need to reuse and recycle, educating new starters on what can and cannot be given a new life. The volunteers share Jessica’s passion, there’s approximately 1500 of them, an army of kind souls.
St Kilda Mums receive no government funding and instead rely on the generosity of the community to donate goods and assist with fundraising. As the goods come in, get checked and go back out, there is no question they are achieving their vision - to waste less, share more and care for every baby and child. An vision that saw them win the Community Award and the Premier’s Recognition Award in the 2015 Premier's Sustainability Awards.
I leave the warehouse already planning my next visit, to drop off a bundle of my son’s clothes and toys, the ones that have been retired to the back of the wardrobe or the bottom of the toy box. Learn how you can donate, volunteer or fundraise and support St Kilda Mums, Eureka Mums in Ballarat or Geelong Mums.