Jen Armstrong's charity the Beauty Bank goes from strength to strengh

Team effort: Melissa Peel (left), Denise Dolan, Jen Armstrong and committee members Linda Hodges, Phoebe Judd, Karen Heapy at the Beauty Bank's Christmas in July high tea. Picture: supplied.
Team effort: Melissa Peel (left), Denise Dolan, Jen Armstrong and committee members Linda Hodges, Phoebe Judd, Karen Heapy at the Beauty Bank's Christmas in July high tea. Picture: supplied.

The charity founded by 2016 NSW Woman of the Year Jennifer (Jen) Armstrong, has grown into “a sizeable operation that has helped literally thousands of men, women and children”, State Parliament has been told.

The Sutherland Shire based Beauty Bank collects donations of toiletries and luxury products, which are distributed to victims of domestic and family violence.

Cronulla MP and Attorney-General Mark Speakman said the strong community support for the charity was “overwhelmingly apparent” at its Christmas in July fund-raiser.

Guests at the Beauty Bank's Christmas in July high tea. Picture: supplied

Guests at the Beauty Bank's Christmas in July high tea. Picture: supplied

“Last year's event raised just under $5000,” he said.

“This year, the annual high tea attracted 145 people and raised $7000 — a terrific result.”

Mr Speakman said it was remarkable how much progress the charity had made in a relatively short period after it was founded by Ms Armstrong, whom he described as “a true local hero”.

“Five years ago, the Beauty Bank was in its infancy,” he said.

“Back then there were no rooms filled with luxury products and teams of volunteers assembled in production lines; it was just Jen wrapping small packages of toiletries in cellophane and ribbon on her living room floor. 

“As time went on, and more and more volunteers became involved, the packs evolved from small cellophane-wrapped parcels to paper gift bags, to zip lock bags, to stylish totes. 

Mark Speakman at the Christmas in July high tea. Picture: supplied

Mark Speakman at the Christmas in July high tea. Picture: supplied

“Each bag of goods contains toiletry and hygiene items such as shampoo and conditioner, body wash, toothpaste and toothbrushes, sanitary items, deodorant and a razor, and additional luxury items like cosmetics, costume jewellery or perfume.

“An individual gift tag is made for each of these bags of life's little luxuries and is signed by the volunteer who has prepared it. 

“The idea is that the recipient feels pampered, special, and supported.”

Mr Speakman said, just as the donations had transformed over time, so too has the scale of the Beauty Bank's operations. 

“After having to hire a small storage unit in December, 2015, one of the Beauty Bank's supporters offered up part of her family business’ warehouse at Taren Point to accommodate the charity's growing demand,” he said. 

“Jen Armstrong, along with Denise Dolan, the Beauty Bank's hardworking operations manager, has succeeded in growing a small charity that began as one woman's dream into a sizeable operation that has helped literally thousands of men, women and children.

“Denise became involved after visiting Jen to drop off a donation. 

“Since that time, she has been instrumental in the Beauty Bank's growth and success, and selflessly gives her time to coordinate all the charity's activities.

“Denise herself has volunteered an average of 30 hours each week for the past two years.”

Mr Speakman said, in addition to being the signature charity partner of the Cronulla Sharks, the Beauty Bank was also a deserving finalist in the community service category of this year's Sutherland Shire Local Business Awards. 

“The positive difference that these volunteers have made in the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our community cannot be overstated,” he said.

Mr Speakman recalled the beginnings of the charity when she left the family home with nothing more than the clothes on her back.

“A gift of a small parcel of toiletries from the Dandelion Support Network, which included a bottle of fancy body wash, was all it took to help make Jen feel special and help her to understand that support was there for her.

“At that moment Jen resolved when she got back on her feet she would do what she could to help other people in her situation to feel special, to know that someone cares.”