The situation looked hopeless a month ago. Mohammed Ali had come home from holiday only to turn the key in his Toyota Tarago and be met with the sound of silence.
The black van had made a name for itself throughout the ACT by delivering food and supplies to hundreds of locals in need as part of the operations of HelpingACT.
That was late January.
Founder of HelpingACT Mohammed Ali made the first delivery in a new van on 26 February, and he’s thanking the Canberra community for rallying to the not-for-profit charity’s aid.
“Not only a new car, but we also have a brand-new trailer, too. We are just over the moon,” he says.
Mohammed created a GoFundMe page with a fundraising target of $20,000, but over the coming days, more and more people heard of his plight and the donations swelled to $30,000.
The ACT Chief Minister’s office donated a “special, one-off” grant of $5000 and $2500 came from the Mirinjani Retirement Village in Weston, but the bulk of donations came from local individuals, families and businesses.
“We feel so overwhelmed by the outcome. Over 90 per cent of the donations came from Canberrans,” he said.
The money was used to purchase a second-hand silver Honda Odyssey from Canberra Toyota and a trailer from King Kong Trailers in Sydney.
HelpingACT was founded in 2018 to help Canberrans get through tough times. Locals fill out an online form with their specific needs before food packs are prepared by a team of 35 volunteers and distributed. The van is a crucial part of this process.
Without a delivery van, volunteers resorted to dropping off food in their own cars.
Woolworths also agreed to waive delivery costs for orders placed through HelpingACT, and the store delivered groceries direct to people’s doors.
“There are some cases now where people are in quarantine with COVID-19, many of them referred to us by ACT Health. Others are immobile for other reasons. We couldn’t discontinue our services.”
Mohammed said the staff at the Canberra Toyota dealership in Phillip are “good old friends” and invited HelpingACT to have a look around at what was on the showroom floor.
“This silver van was just sitting there as if it were waiting for us.”
Mohammed said the dealership staff gave them a “very good price” and a few concessions, including free registration for one year.
The car was then wrapped by Rowan and Conner at Rojo Signs Phillip.
The wrap includes a thank you to the people of Canberra who helped put Helping ACT back on the road: “This HelpMobile was funded by you, the people of Canberra. Thank you Ken Behrens!!”
“It’s a very local van now,” Mohammed said.
Armed with the new resources, Mohammed anticipates expanding operations in the near future.
Once a year, he says the trailer will be towed to Civic for a barbecue for homeless people.
“We are also thinking that every few months, we can go to Bungendore and other towns like that with long-life food to help out charities doing a similar work in rural communities.”
He sees the work of HelpingACT as very much a “team effort” and says that none of it would have been possible if it weren’t for Canberra’s generosity.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone’s assistance with this project.”
If you would like to lend a hand, visit HelpingACT.