Nothing Says ‘I Love You’ Like a Clean Pair of Undies

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Sydney's Wayside Chapel gears up for Valentine's Day.

Wayside Chapel is a well-known Sydney-based charity that offers care and support for people on and around the streets of Sydney. Its campaign initiative ‘Nothing Says I Love You Like A Clean Pair of Undies’ encourages Sydneysiders and the wider community to pay it forward in the lead up to Valentine’s Day.

The annual campaign considers the estimated 380 homeless people that will spend Valentine’s Day on the streets of Sydney this February, without a set of clean clothes, clean underwear, access to showers or good food.

Last year, Wayside raised $15,000 for the campaign and this year is asking Sydneysiders to donate clothing to the charity in the two weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day.

Wayside Chapel provides over 350 changes of clothes to Sydney’s homeless each week and hopes to receive a spike of 800 changes of clothes through this year’s drive. We asked Jon Owen, assistant pastor at Wayside Chapel, about the initiative and what you can do to help.

How did this campaign come about? Who’s the mastermind there?

Our head of marketing and fundraising, Laura Henry, came up with it. Her concept was to ask Sydneysiders to have a bit of fun on Valentine’s Day by forgoing meaningless gifts, in favour of “sharing the love” and donating towards providing necessities for the homeless instead.

Each week, on average, Wayside Chapel provides 352 clothing changes to visitors, as well as providing other basic necessities, like new underwear, socks and a hot shower – all the things that we take for granted can mean the world for those living on the streets. By giving something as simple as a new pair of undies, you are giving someone access to life’ basic needs and restoring a sense of dignity to enable them to feel human again.

Jon Owen, assistant pastor at Sydney’s Wayside Chapel

When did the campaign first kick off?

The campaign first kicked off in 2015. It really resonated with a lot of people. So much effort is expended on Valentine’s Day removing underwear, it just seemed like a good opportunity to help us get someone into it. Valentine’s Day and Wayside Chapel are all about sharing the love and the campaign gave people the unique opportunity to gift new undies to someone sleeping rough, who will go to sleep with the dignity that only new socks or jocks given in love can bring.

Last year, a whopping $15K was raised. What’s the goal for 2018?

This year, we are changing things up a bit and asking people to donate pre-loved clothing instead of money. All Valentine’s Day donations will ensure that Wayside Community Services Centre is properly stocked with emergency clothing supplies in all sizes throughout the year. The goal is that these donations will help Wayside support visitors to move towards health and better days.

What specifically is needed and what should we donate?

We need clean pre-loved clothing for both men and women that can be used for emergency clothing supplies for Wayside visitors. We are particularly short of men’s jeans, shorts and shoes, however will accept all new and good quality, clean clothing donations.

How does the campaign work logistically?

People should go to our homepage at waysidechapel.org.au to register their donation. They can then nominate their loved one’s details and we will send them a Valentine’s Day e-card specially designed by Reg Mombassa on their behalf.

Once the donation is registered, we will send people instructions on how to drop off clean pre-loved clothing donations at our Kings Cross location – which can be done on any day in the lead up to and including Valentine’s Day. Clothes will then be sorted for our Community Services Centre and will be distributed to visitors as emergency clothing on an ‘as need’ basis throughout the year.

As a special thank you to our supporters we will also be offering a behind-the-scenes tour of Wayside Chapel Kings Cross and Bondi on Valentine’s Day. People will receive information and the ability to book into these tours after they have registered their donation.

What other services does Wayside offer?

Wayside offers a wide range of services, catering to the diverse needs of our many visitors. Our Community Services Centre is the first point-of-contact for many first-timers to Wayside and provides the basics – showers, clothes, people to talk to – but also provides referrals, access to clinics and referral services, advocacy and care coordination and meeting spaces for self-help and community groups. We also have a dedicated Aboriginal space which offers a culturally appropriate care coordination in a safe and comfortable place, as well as a Day to Day Living Program which organises a range of educational, social and recreational group-based activities, like gardening, cooking classes and excursions. We also have an affordable café with food ranging from 20c to $4, giving our visitors the dignity of choice and exchange and a comfortable space to eat and relax.

Of course, we offer church services to come together and enjoy community. We always say we’re not much like a church, which is fine if you’re not much like a Christian. Wayside is simply a place where anyone can come and just ‘be’ without judgement under the banner of ‘love over hate’.

Post Valentine’s Day, how can those interested offer further assistance?

Those interested can offer further assistance by simply becoming part of our community at Kings Cross or Bondi! Everyone is welcome.

Sign up to our weekly e-newsletter Inner Circle, a letter from CEO and pastor Rev Graham Long, and hear all about the high points, the low points and all the happenings in between here at Wayside. Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter and LinkedIn. Come along to a Community Lunch, held most Tuesdays and Thursdays with our community educator Rob Holt. Book a Wayside Walk with Andrew Windsor, a Wayside employee with lived experience. Come along to one of our many events and learn more about us. Or just come in and have a cuppa in our café and immerse yourself in the Wayside way of life! And of course, by donating, either clothes or money, will ensure we are able to keep offering these necessary services to those in need.

We also have a lot of people volunteering at Wayside, so people can register via the volunteer portal on our website, then sign up for a volunteer induction. We’d love to have you on board.

Visit waysidechapel.org.au

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