Catholic primary and secondary schools across the Diocese of Wollongong have creatively and generously raised funds and donated goods to the Vinnies Winter Appeal over the past several months to help those in need in our region this winter.
Our school communities have dug deep to make a significant difference to local families struggling this winter and all year round. They’ve held collection drives, sleepouts, pyjama days, ‘winter woolies’ mufti days and walkathons to raise over $15,000 dollars for local Vinnies conferences and donate several thousand much-needed essentials - blankets, warm clothes, toiletries, canned goods and other food items - to those experiencing homelessness, severe financial stress and other disadvantage in our community.
Vinnies Wollongong Central Council Executive Officer, Peter Quarmby, said he has been humbled by CEDoW schools’ support of their annual Winter Appeal.
“Winter is a very difficult time of year if you are homeless or can’t afford to pay for heating or other essentials. Vinnies is there to lend a hand to those that reach out at this particularly difficult time. To do this, we rely on generous donations from the community - and the wonderful contributions made by schools across the Diocese of Wollongong this year will help significantly,” he said.
"The commitment and dedication of students and teachers to developing creative fundraising activities and fostering awareness of the issues faced by those experiencing disadvantage contributes greatly to our ability to provide safety and security to those who need it most" - Peter Quarmby, Vinnies Wollongong
“On behalf of the Wollongong Central Council and the many people we assist, I express utmost thanks to everyone who has played a part in the amazing fundraising efforts of all participating schools this year.”
Skip to your school by clicking on the links below:
Plus see our full Vinnies Winter Appeal photo gallery here.
St Brigid’s, Gwynneville
The St Brigid’s, Gwynneville school community came together for a massive mission effort to help those in need in their local area. They held a walkathon to fundraise for the Winter Appeal, where students asked family, friends and neighbours to sponsor them for their efforts.
The whole school gathered at Wiseman Park to walk their laps: Kindergarten walking six laps of the oval, through to Years 5 and 6 who covered twelve. Students would pass by the card station, having their card ‘validated’ for each circuit they completed. Even family and friends joined in on the day’s fun!
Year 6 also joined with their Kindergarten buddies to sell drinks and homemade cupcakes to further the fundraising effort. Year 6 student, Emily, said the cupcakes were baked by her class as part of their learning in Religious Education.
"In class, we’ve been learning about the importance of reaching out to others and helping people. So our class decided to hold a cupcake stall as part of the day so we could raise even more money for St Vincent de Paul," she said.
"It was a good feeling to help raise money for Vinnies to help people who need food, clothes and blankets to keep warm this winter" - Emily, Year 6 student, St Brigid's
The day raised a massive $7,600 for Vinnies - an incredible effort, considering the student population is less than 200! Several students were acknowledged for their outstanding generosity and commitment to fundraising for the Appeal, individually raising hundreds of dollars each.
St Brigid’s families and staff also collected cans of food and personal care supplies to donate to the Vinnies Van to offer people around the Illawarra on its nightly runs. They have since held more fundraising initiatives including a fruit and marshmallow kebab sale, to further support the work of Vinnies.
Year 5 student, Henry said, “We’re lucky to have all the things we do, but there are people out there who aren’t as well off as us, so it was good to support them by raising this money and donating food.”
President of the local conference, Peter Cooney, said Vinnies greatly valued and appreciated the ongoing support that St Brigid’s had provided the organisation over many years.
“This very generous donation for our Winter Appeal was far beyond anyone's expectations. It’s absolutely amazing, and leaves me somewhat speechless. We express our sincere gratitude for the students’ wonderful willingness to share with people in great need.”
Magdalene, Narellan & Mount Carmel, Varroville
Over 100 students and 20 staff from two of our Macarthur secondary schools - Magdalene, Narellan and Mount Carmel, Varroville - joined forces to hold a big winter sleepout that raised over $1,000 for Vinnies.
Hosted at Magdalene, the night included a number of activities run by school staff and Vinnies team members, as well as a music ministry session by the Catholic Youth Ministry Wollongong (CYMW) team to bring an element of faith development to the event.
Other activities included interactive games, such as the game of choice led by the Magdalene's social justice councillors, where students were challenged to make decisions similar to those faced by the homeless every night. There were presentations that looked at homelessness, privilege and the work of St Vincent de Paul, and a STEM challenge to build a homeless shelter out of cardboard and newspaper that was also well received.
“The winter sleepout was great. I enjoyed the communal experience,” Year 10 Magdalene student, Anna said.
"Listening to the guest speakers was eye opening. I was overwhelmed by the harsh statistics of homelessness" - John, Year 10 student, Magdalene
"I really enjoyed the game of choice as it provided me with a clear insight into the reality of the harsh choices that homeless people have to make every day. It had a big impact," Year 12 student, Lauren said.
“We gained a greater appreciation for the work of Vinnies and how they are supporting people in need,” fellow student, Kim, said.
Magdalene also donated food, clothing and blankets to support the work of both the Vinnies Nagle Centre in Campbelltown and the Wollongong Diocese Vinnies Van.
St Michael’s, Nowra
St Michael’s, Nowra held a winter sleepout event, where students sought sponsorship from family, friends and the local community to take part in the event. The school had 35 students and several members of staff who braved the cold overnight in solidarity to those in the community experiencing homelessness.
The event raised $3,500 for the homeless in the Shoalhaven, which was presented to the local Vinnies conference at their next school assembly - a big effort!
Earlier in the day at school, students were invited to wear mufti in return for a donation of something warm to give to those struggling this winter, including beanies, gloves, socks, scarves and blankets. The warm clothing donations were made into hampers for distribution at the local Vinnies and Safe Shelters Homeless Centre. The students also made cards to put in the hampers, which contained small messages of hope for people when they collected the winter items.
As reported by the South Coast Register, St Michael’s had a stellar fundraising effort that week, also raising a further $2,000 for NSW Vinnies Drought Appeal. A wonderfully generous effort from the St Michael’s Nowra school community.
St Benedict’s, Oran Park
St Benedict’s, Oran Park held its annual 'Bennie's Bring a Blanket' evening - a sleepout at the school designed to raise awareness of the issues of homelessness and encourage empathy amongst the students. Many participated in the event, which included several activities and workshops around the theme of homelessness. Staff also ran a 'soup kitchen' for the students. Those who participated considered eating and sleeping outside in the bitter cold of winter to be an important learning experience and change of perspective.
Year 11 student, Mikaelee, said the ‘Bennies Bring a Blanket’ night was inspiring. “It motivated us to take action against homelessness and help those struggling during winter," she said.
Fellow student, Justin, said it was a great evening to raise money and knowledge of the homelessness happening within their community.
"Through school donations and a series of activities, we were able to raise significant funds and awareness for the less fortunate" - Justin, Year 11 student, St Benedict's
Money and blankets donated from students on the night contributed to St Benedict’s overall collection, which included dozens of new and handmade blankets, two charity bins full of warm winter clothes and a financial donation of $600 to the Winter Appeal. The blankets were donated to the Vinnies emergency centre in Wollongong, where staff were extremely grateful of the quantity and quality of the donations from the school.
St Pius X, Unanderra
Students and staff at St Pius X, Unanderra took part in a pyjama day fundraiser for the Winter Appeal, raising over $300.
“Considering the cold, wet weather we had on the day, being in pyjamas was the best thing ever! It was a really fun day raising much needed funds and awareness for such a worthy appeal,” Acting REC, Louise Sartor said.
"It was fun wearing my PJs and seeing what other people's pyjamas looked like, too. It was good to raise money for people who are poor and need some important items to get them through the winter" - Ellie, Year 4 student, St Pius X
Raife from Year 6 also enjoyed the opportunity. “I really enjoyed the PJ day. It made my morning easy because I didn’t have to put my uniform on. We were proud to raise money for the poor people who are homeless and are out in the cold, especially during winter.”
St John’s, Dapto
To support the Winter Appeal, the Mini Vinnies team at St John’s, Dapto organised a Beanie Day, where students wore their beanies and donated nominated items such as blankets and general clothing, handkerchiefs, scarves, beanies, socks, gloves and tins of food. This included a massive 733 noodle cups from the students!
The St John's community donated an impressive amount of items, which were presented at a mass to Mrs Robyn Ford from the Dapto Vinnies conference. Mrs Ford was overwhelmed with the generosity of the students and presented the Mini Vinnies team with a certificate of appreciation.
St Paul’s, Moss Vale
St Paul’s, Moss Vale held a pyjama day to raise money for the Appeal, where students wore their pyjamas - and could even bring their slippers to wear around the classroom - for a gold coin donation. The Year 5 Mini Vinnies team organised the day, which also included winter-related activities like a slipper toss competition and snowflake-making.
“We raised almost $300, which we gave to St Vincent de Paul to help support those in need,” Year 5 students, Lilli and Lucia said.
Under the direction of members of the Catholic Women’s League, the students also engaged in knitting squares, which were sewn together into blankets by a dedicated teacher at the school. These blankets were given to Vinnies as part of the Winter Appeal, too.
St Therese, West Wollongong
St Therese, West Wollongong held a ‘winter woollies’ mufti day which coincided with the school’s liturgy celebrating St Mary of the Cross and the ways she helped the poor. Gold coin donations from the day raised $735. This was on top of the weekly Mission money collection from classes for several weeks over Terms 2 and 3, which added another $250, for an overall total of almost $1,000.
The West Wollongong Vinnies conference requested help with food for disadvantaged families in their local area, so St Therese also held a three-week food drive, collecting 10 baskets of food.
At the end of the term, the school held a liturgy around the theme of St Vincent de Paul to acknowledge his work as a saint and bring attention to the Vinnies organisation, their work and their vision.
Ss Peter & Paul, Kiama
Ss Peter and Paul, Kiama held a beanie and long sock mufti day to raise awareness of the Winter Appeal and, instead of a gold coin donation, students brought in items of food for local families.
Middle Leader and Winter Appeal coordinator, Angela Crandell, said the school directed its efforts towards gathering food because Kiama conference leaders said this would be most helpful to them.
“We have a close relationship with our local St Vincent de Paul conference, and they told us that they were in desperate need of food,” Ms Crandell said.
St Columbkille’s, Corrimal
St Columbkille’s, Corrimal donated food and clothing items to Vinnies, to go towards a number of hampers. The school was inundated with items from students and families in each class, including many packets of soup, noodles and noodle cups from Stage 1; tinned foods from Stage 2; and woolly scarves, gloves, beanies, blankets and jumpers from Stage 3.
A special shout out to Mrs Jean Watton - great nan of students, Matilda and Billy - for the many, many beanies she spent hours knitting for the Appeal collection.
“These donations will help out a number of people who are less fortunate than ourselves, especially through the colder months of winter. It was tremendous effort from our families,” Religious Education Co-ordinator, Joanne Herring said.
“It makes me feel good to know we are helping so many people. We are a giving community, and I feel proud of how many donations we’ve made” - Charlotte, student, St Columbkille's
St Joseph’s, Bulli
Year 6 Mini Vinnies students at St Joseph's, Bulli ran a food drive this year for their Winter Appeal efforts. Tinned foods, two-minute noodles, dried pasta, pasta sauces, and other long shelf-life foods came in fast, and by the end of the drive the school had amassed over 700 items of donated food.
Mini Vinnies Coordinator at St Joseph’s, Judith Parker, said the group was thrilled to receive such a large amount of food to donate to Vinnies.
"All the items were counted, sorted and boxed by our hard working Mini Vinnies team," Mrs Parker said.
"This group of students formed Mini Vinnies in 2015, and it’s mostly the same group of 10-12 girls who have continued to enthusiastically give up their lunchtime every Tuesday to run social justice initiatives together at the school, to make a difference in the local community” - Judith Parker, Mini-Vinnies Coordinator, St Joseph's
"We like knowing that we are helping people less fortunate than us," the Mini Vinnies team said. "We were surprised by how many food items people brought in, so we feel really proud of our school."
Stella Maris, Shellharbour
Stella Maris, Shellharbour’s donation drive saw students from Kindergarten and Year 6 focus on bringing in clothing and blankets, while Years 1 to 5 donated food items specific to each grade. The students monitored their grade's daily progress on a big chart in their assembly area under the school COLA.
At the end of the collection period, Stella Maris invited the president of their local Vinnies conference and Vinnies staff to the school to officially hand over their hampers. Members of the Mini Vinnies team then wrote an article for the school newsletter, announcing the total number of donations and the winning class, who were treated to a meal hosted by the Mini Vinnies team as a thank you for their great efforts.
Almost 700 donated items in total were gratefully received by Coniston Vinnies who distributed the donations between their shelter facility and the Wollongong Vinnies Van, for its nightly runs to various locations in the Illawarra.
John Therry, Rosemeadow
John Therry, Rosemeadow had a wonderful term of donations from students and families that allowed the school to give over 1,000 cans of food and 15 large bags of blankets and clothes to the Vinnies Nagle Centre in Campbelltown. Mt Annan Coles also contributed a donation of five crates of canned food for the school to give to Vinnies, made possible by the efforts of the Pace family.
Assistant Principal, Brad McAllister, sent a “huge thank you to everyone who helped with the Appeal this year and to all the generous souls who donated”.
St Michael's, Thirroul
The enthusiastic and compassionate group of students that form the Mini Vinnies group at St Michael’s, Thirroul have been busy promoting and collecting cups of instant noodles to pass onto the local Vinnies Van for those needing a hot meal. They called it their ‘Noodles to the Rescue’ project.
St Michael’s Religious Education Coordinator, Emma Groves, said the students took on the advice of Vinnies Van volunteers, who noticed there had been a shortage of meals that they could provide to people to take away with them to use in the days following.
“The students chose to donate noodles so the people who are living in harsh winter conditions could enjoy a hot meal that was easy to prepare - there and then, or to take away for later" - Emma Groves, REC, St Michael's
"The noodles only need hot water, which can be sourced from the van or local restaurants like McDonald's, KFC etc. This way, people can keep it with them until they are really hungry and enjoy it then - unlike other meals, where they either have to have it when they get it or eat it cold,” Ms Groves said.
“So, students started to bring in noodle cups for the Vinnies Van to give to the less fortunate in our community. We collected over 250 cups of noodles in total, which was an amazing effort.”
Holy Cross, Helensburgh
Holy Cross, Helensburgh collected food items over several weeks. They ended this period with a big push for warm clothing donations - a ‘Share the Winter Warmth’ day where the students wore their favourite warm items of clothing to school in return for donating items like scarves, socks and beanies.
The school presented their donation to their Vinnies conference at Sunday Mass. Year 6 then worked with the local Vinnies group to put the donated food and warm items into hampers which were given to families in the northern Illawarra area.
Holy Family, Ingleburn
Holy Family, Ingleburn ran a four-week clothing and blanket donation drive at the school. Classes ran a friendly competition against each other to see who could get the most donations, with their progress monitored using a giant Olympic running track displayed in the front office window.
In total, the school donated over 1,000 items. But the fundraising was only one component of their Winter Appeal campaign - an investment in boosting students’ awareness was also considered important.
CEDoW Pastoral Support Coordinator, Grant Dodds, helped Holy Family coordinate their Vinnies Winter Appeal efforts, and said the philosophy behind the focus on clothing and blankets was to give the students an understanding of the ‘cycle of charity’.
"Once all our Winter Appeal donations were received, they were delivered to the local Vinnies store at Macquarie Fields. Shortly after the drop-off, we took 25 of the school’s Mini Vinnies students to visit that store, where they were provided with a $10 to buy as many items as they could," Mr Dodds said.
"Back at school, the students took part in a Vinnies fashion parade, where they modelled the outfits they purchased while quizzing audience members on how much they believed the outfit cost. The average price of an entire outfit was $7.80."
“This initiative provided the students with an appreciation of how someone’s donation to a store can cost so little and potentially clothe an entire family” - Grant Dodds, CEDoW Pastoral Support Coordinator
ST FRANCIS, EDMONDSON PARK
St Francis, Edmondson Park focused on collecting goods for the Vinnies Nagle Centre in Campbelltown - chosen because of its great work in providing family care and support for people and families experiencing crisis and disadvantage in the Macarthur region.
When the school reached out to the centre, they were very appreciative and helpfully provided the school with a list of the items they most needed. Different grades were then allocated different non-perishable items on that list to collect and donate, such as food and drink products, tinned food, kitchen supplies, cleaning supplies and dental care products.
The school also donated story books and colouring books and pencils for the children at the Nagle Centre.
St Francis of Assisi, Warrawong
St Francis of Assisi, Warrawong had a canned food drive to support the St Vincent de Paul House in Coniston. Each grade collected a variety of different canned food items to donate, which were packaged, used and distributed to those in need in the local community.
The students said there were glad to have the opportunity to participate in the drive.
“I think it would be very hard to sleep out on the streets during winter. If our donation can help provide food and shelter to some homeless people, we are making a difference” - Izac, student, St Francis of Assisi
“It is great that our school can help people in our community who face cold nights on the streets,” Emilia added.
Several other schools ran donation drives to collect goods and food items, including:
• St Michael’s, Mittagong - each class filled their baskets with a range of goods: pasta and rice, packets of soup, tea/coffee, biscuits, muesli bars, cereal, long-life milks and all kinds of canned goods. At the end of the term, members of the local Vinnies conference visited the school to load up their utes with all the school's donated goods and thank the children for their efforts.
• St Paul’s, Albion Park students and staff knitted blankets for the Appeal. In a lovely partnership, several St Paul’s parishioners came to the school to help the students knit squares, which were then made into eight large blankets. Staff also ran a food drive as part of their mission focus for the term.
• St Mary’s Star of the Sea, Milton held a crazy sock day - a chance for students to wear all kinds of fun socks to school in exchange for a donation of a can of food, warm socks, beanies or scarves. This was donated to their grateful local Vinnies conference.
• Mary Immaculate, Eagle Vale - the Year 6 Mini Vinnies team held a bake sale during lunchtimes to sell sweet treats to fellow students. The team raised $730 to donate to the Winter Appeal.
• St Joseph’s, Albion Park students went to work collecting cans of soup and food for their Appeal efforts. They collected 450 cans this year [pictured below].
For more information on the Vinnies Winter Appeal or to donate, visit www.winterappeal.vinnies.org.au