In the lead-up to Christmas, more than 240 volunteers from over 20 corporations (including a team from Westpac that has been supporting the Brisbane-based Salvos Christmas Warehouse for 21 years) will sort and pack food hampers for thousands of families across south-east Queensland.
Lee Norton, assistant to the head of Westpac Institutional Bank Qld and NT, organises the Westpac volunteer team. She says that, while the group is there to support the community, the benefit is mutual in many ways. While Westpac staff help those in need, they also bond as a team and make connections with staff members they might not usually work with.
Plus, Lee says, there is simply the ‘feel-good factor’ that comes with serving. The experience has encouraged many to undertake further individual volunteering.
She explains that each Westpac business unit chooses which charities to support and that all employees are given an annual paid volunteering day.
A part of the Salvos volunteer team, Lee says: “It’s a really worthy cause and although I took over the community coordinator role after the Salvos partnership was already up and running, the Salvos had already been close to my heart for many years.
“Over recent years I’ve also worked at some of the distribution points where you see the gifts and hampers being handed out to families in need.”
She says the experience can be “very emotional”.
Lee Norton (second from right) views volunteering to support families in need at Christmas-time as “a very worthy cause”.
“You see just how some people are struggling and just how thankful they are for the donations, especially the gifts they’re getting for their kids. They can’t thank you enough,” Lee says.
“We have a number of people, myself included, who do it year after year after year. As soon as we have the email out, they have their hands straight up.”
The Salvation Army’s Melinda Burrows says the support from corporate organisations is deeply valued. Many corporate partners become involved in multiple ways, including volunteering and collecting gifts and food, as well as raising funds to help those in crisis and need.
“Each year we also have hundreds of corporate volunteers come through the Christmas Warehouse. Their hard work and enthusiasm make it possible for The Salvation Army to distribute gifts and food to people across Queensland,” she says.
Melinda says it is inspiring to see the generosity of corporate partners first-hand.
“The contributions of our corporate partners make an incredible difference to the work that we do supporting the most vulnerable in our community.”