22 September 2023

Why generosity will (and must) prevail in tough times at this Hands Across Canberra event

| Dione David
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People seated around a table set with white table cloth, plates and glasses - with two people standing behind 2022 Philanthropy Award Winner Jo Farrell.

The Hands Across Canberra luncheon is all about Canberrans hearing from Canberrans about real current needs. Photo: HAC.

A year-and-a-half ago, Canberra City Care was receiving about 250 visits a week at its very active food pantry – a place where Canberrans doing it tough could go to stock up on low-cost nutritious meals and donated pantry products. Today, it’s averaging 400.

It’s a common story across the board for community service organisations dealing with the fallout from the soaring cost of living, inflation and the housing affordability crisis.

Without any ACT Government funding, Canberra City Care has relied in great part on the generosity of the church to fund its services. But its customers would be a lot worse off if it weren’t for Hands Across Canberra (HAC).

In the past two years alone HAC has helped Canberra City Care raise in excess of $25,000, helping the group launch a community cafe at its centre in Charnwood.

Open for a couple of hours three days a week, Canberra City Care manager Randy Albrecht said it presented enormous value to the community.

“We get over 30 visits per day from community members, some of whom come there to enjoy their one and only social outing for the week,” he said.

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HAC recently brokered a donation of 20 laptops to Canberra City Care’s Tech Shed, where demand has also increased.

The Tech Shed provides basic maintenance, IT and computer refurbishment services. For about $180 to $250 – a fraction of the commercial cost – the shed can fix and load a computer with basic software, allowing some to get connected for the first time.

Randy said this recent injection of laptops was a “real boost”.

“In the early stages of COVID when adults and children were expected to stay at home to work and learn, many of our customers were not equipped and were not in a position to go out and purchase what they needed to set themselves up,” he said.

“This donation from Synergy has enabled us to make more of an imprint on the digital divide we see on a regular basis at Canberra City Care.”

Without ACT Government funding, corporate sponsorship and support is critical to Canberra City Care’s operations. And while Canberra is filled with incredibly generous people, sometimes smaller grassroots operations – and even larger charities, particularly in times of donor fatigue – struggle to make the necessary connections.

“That’s why the role HAC plays in bringing our generous corporate sector together with the not-for-profits is crucial,” Randy said.

Jo Farrell, Dianne Bray and John Hindmarsh hold Canberra Philanthropy Awards, in front of a stage with musicians playing in the background.

Kane Constructions’ Jo Farrell, HAC founding member Dianne Bray and Hindmarsh’s John Hindmarsh at the presentation of last year’s Hands Across Canberra Philanthropy Awards. Photo: HAC.

This role is set to play out to perfection at the Hands Across Canberra Fundraising Luncheon, where members of charity partners will sit at each table to talk about what they do.

It’s not your usual charity luncheon. Businesses “sponsor” a table of 10 seats, two of which go to local charities.

HAC CEO Peter Gordon said the event was designed to encourage direct conversation between generous people and charities.

“Effectively businesses ‘invite’ these charities out to lunch, and the charities get to tell their story in their own words to generous people who may want to sponsor them in future. So it’s really lovely,” he said.

“It’s all about Canberrans hearing from other Canberrans about our needs and how, if we get involved, we can all be better off.”

READ ALSO In a pickle: Preserving against the cost of living crisis

The VIP guest list will include the Chief Minister, generous local corporate donors and outstanding community partners.

Region group editor Genevieve Jacobs will conduct table-side feature interviews, talking with the charities. Region will also award the ACT Philanthropy recipient at the lunch.

Peter said there wouldn’t be auctions, raffles or any of the other “noisy stuff”, but pledge cards would allow for direct donations should a story speak to a donor.

Guests can also donate to Hands Across Canberra’s grant pool, which distributes between $300,000 and $500,000 a year to Canberra charities.

“Events like these raise a significant portion of our funds. We rely on them, just as our charity partners rely on us,” Peter said.

“We all go to a lot of charity events, but Canberra businesses remain very generous. We hope those invited to a table come with a generous heart, as they always have.”

The Hands Across Canberra Fundraising Luncheon takes place from 12 pm to 2:30 pm on Wednesday 18 October at Gandel Hall, National Gallery of Australia. The event costs $4000 per table. To enquire, contact Liz Howarth on lizhowarth@handsacrosscanberra.org.au or 0413 098 718.

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