A Sutherland Shire-based charity that provides care packages for some of the most vulnerable members of the community is bracing for an influx of calls for assistance as a result of the latest COVID-19 lockdown.
Ripples of Love Community was started by sisters Natalie Grueninger and Karina Juncal three years ago with the aim of connecting those in need with others who want to help.
They invite members of the public to donate items for customised care packages, which they call Big Love Boxes, that are forwarded to the vulnerable members of the community, such as the homeless or women and children fleeing domestic violence.
Each box contains a handwritten note to the recipient.
"In the wake of COVID-19 and the end of JobKeeper, there are ever-growing numbers of individuals and families who need support in Sutherland Shire," Ms Juncal said.
Ms Grueninger came up with the idea for the charity after a trip to the UK where she was saddened by the number of homeless. On her return to Australia, she joined forces with her sister to launch Ripples of Love Community - with the name inspired by the belief that when you do something good for another person, that act of kindness will continue to ripple out into the community in beautiful and unexpected ways.
"We knew that people were suffering in silence," Ms Grueninger said.
"But we had no idea of just how many people in our community were in desperate need of help."
Within weeks of launching their Facebook page in May 2018, they were inundated with requests for help from social services and other community organisations.
The Oyster Bay women work with various groups that support the vulnerable in the community and have so far donated more than 250 boxes.
They are currently working on boxes for clients of St George Drug and Alcohol Service, a local domestic violence service and Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women's Legal Centre.
While most of their packs have been for women and children, they are also currently filling 20 backpacks with items for homeless men who are clients of Kingsway Community Care's Hope House.
"After receiving a referral via our website, we find a volunteer or group of volunteers to build a 'Big Love Box' for the individual or family in need, or we put this together ourselves, using monetary donations from our generous donors," Ms Grueninger said.
"The Big Love Boxes are essentially personalised care packages full of new items that an individual or family is in desperate need of, but whenever possible, they also contain something connected to the recipient's interests, hobbies or passions - something to nourish the soul.
"When the items are ready, we arrange collection/drop-off and delivery."
The sisters have witnessed first-hand how the Big Love Boxes serve and benefit both the recipient and the giver.
"The very act of making a Big Love Box gives the person or family the opportunity to think about and look after another person in a way that is distinctly hands-on, personal and unique," Ms Grueninger said.
"We inspire and enable members of the community and our supporters to directly help people experiencing hardship.
"We encourage them to include a handwritten note of support with each Big Love Box, which creates a very special connection between the recipient and the giver."
They said while one box could not overcome a recipient's major financial problems, they had received "overwhelmingly positive feedback" from grateful recipients.
"One small act of kindness can have far-reaching, positive effects and be a powerful catalyst for change," Ms Juncal said.
"And importantly, the Big Love Boxes remind the most vulnerable members of our society that their lives matter and that they have not been forgotten by the community."
Ripples of Love Community is a not-for-profit organisation that relies solely on donations and the community's support.
If you want to request a Big Love Box for someone in the community, you can complete the online request form found here.