Big Group Hug is an organisation very near and dear to our hearts at Aintree Group. They are a key community partner, and we proudly support them in fundraisers, collection campaigns and volunteer days.
We wanted to highlight the incredible work they do across Victoria, so we asked key members of their team to provide some insight into their world, and what goes on behind the scenes to achieve such a significant and positive impact across our community.
Here’s what they had to say…
We are Big Group Hug.
We provide essential items for children, from newborns to 16 years of age, in Victoria who are experiencing the effects of poverty and disadvantage, alleviating financial burden for families and freeing limited funds for their food, bills and safe housing.
Our assistance comes in the form of age-appropriate Hug Packs, inclusive of new and pre-loved clothing, toiletries, formula, toys, prams, car seats, cots, highchairs and nappies.
We are represented publicly by our Ambassador, anti-family violence advocate Jacinta D’Angelo.
We are led by a committed volunteer board, including Aintree Group Accounting Principal Graham Haydar; our CEO, Bernadene Voss, a small paid staff (7.4FTE) and 350 talented volunteers.
CEO of Big Group Hug, Bernadene Voss
What is your impact on the community?
In the last financial year we provided over 110,000 items for 6,000 children in Melbourne, predominantly in the northern and inner-western suburbs, while diverting 103 tons of usable textiles and children’s items from landfill.
At Big Group Hug, we assist families in a variety of situations including those on low incomes, seeking asylum or refuge, fleeing family conflict, supporting high-needs children, foster children, kinship care, experiencing homelessness or simply struggling to make ends meet in any given month.
Over nine years, our service has grown to become a significant and vital part of the community response to these social issues and is heavily relied upon by 1,200 caseworkers across 142 health and welfare agencies, including hospitals and charities such as Anglicare, Salvation Army and Berry Street, plus women shelters and Maternal Child Health Networks. The service is completely free of charge.
The charity also has an environmental sustainability arm, tracking the volume of usable items diverted from landfill annually (103 tonnes in Financial Year 2022-23) and upcycling various items through their processes, such as converting used bed sheets into drawstring bags for their toy packs, with the assistance of volunteers.
What was the inspiration behind starting Big Group Hug?
Big Group Hug started in the home of founder (and continuing board member) Angela Wood in response to seeing parents in her own community struggling to provide essentials for their children.
Angela started small, collecting pre-loved items from friends and passing them on to local Maternal Child Health nurses. Over 9 years, Big Group Hug grew, moving from Angela’s home to a church hall in Rosanna, then a warehouse in Bundoora and in July this year the charity moved to two adjoining warehouses in Settlement Road, Thomastown.
From this new space, and a smaller hub in Airport West, Big Group Hug now provides essential aid for thousands of children each year, particularly in the northern and western suburbs of Melbourne, but increasingly throughout the region.
What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
Ask any of Big Group Hug’s 350 volunteers and they will tell you that the most rewarding thing is knowing that they are helping a family provide for their children. They may never meet us, but we know they will be proud to receive the care packs lovingly crafted by our team and that we are playing a small part in making their lives better.
It take a village to raise a child, and we hope that every family experiencing hardship knows that they are a loved part of our village.
What do you think people will be most surprised to learn about you?
That we support 6,000 children a year, aged newborns to 16 years, but there are thousands more children here in Melbourne that need our help.
What is the most challenging part about what you do?
Securing ongoing funding to operate the organisation in a sustainable manner can be a challenge. There are many charities doing wonderful work in our community and while we are fortunate to have the assistance of Aintree Group, we are always seeking new business and philanthropic partners to help us deliver greater impact for the community we serve.
Any support, big or small can be influential in our lean charity as we work together to reduce landfill and ensure Victorian children have the essentials they need to thrive.
Tell us about a recent milestone or achievement
Last month was our biggest month on record as we received requests to help 581 people. Although it is sad that there is so much need in our community, we are honoured to be able to play a part to help.
This year, we also started our first Reconciliation Action Plan (Reflect).
How long have you been a client of Aintree Group?
Big Group Hug started as a client of Aintree Group Chartered Accountants in 2020.
Later, Accounting Principal Graham Haydar, became a member of the board at Big Group Hug.
What has been the biggest benefit of having Aintree Group on-side?
Aintree Group’s steadfast commitment to helping not only Big Group Hug, but various charity and community groups year-round continues to impress us.
Giving back to community is embedded in every part of the business and we congratulate them on making it a pillar of their business and engaging their staff and clients in various activities throughout the year.
Graham’s financial guidance as a non-executive director is invaluable, and the Group’s contribution to our Double Donation Day and PJs, Jocks and Socks goods drive campaign is greatly appreciated.
How can the community get involved?
There are so many ways that the community can support Big Group Hug, which is within their means. From workplace volunteering, to joining our 1000Club, holding a festive goods drive, becoming an official partner or sponsor or dropping off a bag of clothing, everyone can proudly know they have contributed to helping over 6,000 local children in need each year.
We appreciate and value each person who helps us.
We also invite you to celebrate Children’s Week (21-29 October) with Big Group Hug by hosting a children’s party food themed fundraising morning/afternoon tea. One of our team may be able to join you for a personal insight to the work we achieve with community support.
It takes 3 simple steps:
- Register your morning/afternoon tea here: https://childrensweek.biggrouphug.org/signup This will create a fundraising page where your colleagues can donate to take part.
- Pick your date (Children’s Week is 21-29 October but you can hold your event before, during or after that)
- Tell your colleagues – let them know who’s supplying the treats (you or they BYO), and that it’s a fundraiser so to bring cash or donate on your fundraising page.
To make it as simple as possible, we’ve added resources on our website that you can download (posters, images for email/social media/internal platforms) and you can contact us anytime for tips and support.
During Children’s Week, Big Group Hug will also have a presence at various community events and the following shopping centres are all holding goods drives for us: Northland Shopping Centre, Showgrounds Village, Mill Park Village.
To find out more or to get involved, you can contact Maria Quigley, Manager of Fundraising and Communications at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This community profile was written in collaboration with Maria and Feona from Big Group Hug.