When Ngunnawal Street Pantry founders Margaret and Paul McGrath put out a post on Facebook on Friday, 19 November, calling for donations of formal dresses for year 10 and year 12 girls who couldn’t afford them, they weren’t expecting the sheer scale of the response they got.
Within only a couple of days, their suburban lounge room was transformed into a dressing room fit for a queen (or many princesses, perhaps).
Paul says he’s now convinced their house is a Tardis, from Doctor Who, as he simply couldn’t believe how many dresses, pairs of shoes and accessories they were able to fit in there.
Canberrans were more than willing to help upon learning of the plight of a number of young girls who said they simply couldn’t afford a new dress, but really wanted to attend their school formal.
“Lots of people have said to us they wished a service such as this existed when they were going to their own formal as they weren’t able to go themselves,” says Paul.
In fact, Ngunnawal Street Pantry received so many offers of dresses that they are now able to offer dresses to anyone at all who requires one, whether for a Christmas or New Year’s Eve party, work event or family gathering this holiday season.
If people are interested in viewing, trying on or choosing a formal dress, Margaret asks that they book an appointment via the easy online booking system.
Initially, Margaret had asked people to book to drop off formal dresses they wanted to donate, but she was so overwhelmed by the community response to the donations that she had change it.
She says it can be a little overwhelming dealing with the influx of donations at this time of year, but she is still trying to manage all of the donations and the other day-to-day operations of the pantry in her usual way.
Margaret asks that people call out to her or ring the doorbell upon their arrival at 22 Bullala Court so she can check the donations before they are received.
Alternatively, she is happy to receive offers of help with sorting donations and the like.
Given Margaret has an injured arm and Paul is recovering from gout, both are keen to have a couple of extra helping hands to deal with the holiday influx.
Margaret and Paul established Ngunnawal Street Pantry from their home with the overarching philosophy that people should take when they need, and give when they could.
Margaret says many of the people she and Paul meet daily don’t actually need long-term support, which can be provided by charities such as Red Cross or Vinnies.
Instead, she notes all it takes is for one missed week of work or an unexpected vet bill to crop up, and people suddenly need a bit of assistance to tide them over until they can make ends meet again.
Now they manage donations of clothes, shoes and other household goods from the community, as well as bread and other food that restaurants, supermarkets and cafes drop off when they no longer need it.
It all keeps Margaret and Paul busy, but both of them say they’ve been lucky in their lives and now want to share it with others.
You can book a Ngunnawal Street Pantry donation drop-off here.