PORT Macquarie residents are being called on to help bag a Christmas miracle for women and girls spending the holidays in a domestic violence shelter.
Share the Dignity, through its annual #itsinthebag charity drive, is encouraging people to donate a bag filled with essential items and drop it off at their local Bunnings store until Sunday, November 28.
The initiative, which is now in its seventh year, aims to ensure that every woman and girl spending Christmas in a domestic violence shelter receives the basic essentials - including pads and tampons, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo and soap - as well as little luxuries such as hair accessories or makeup products.
Local Amanda Graham has been involved with Share the Dignity for a number of years after working as a psychologist with Wesley Mission where she saw women who had experienced fleeing a domestic violence situation.
"After I had a difficult birth with one of my babies, I realised how lucky I was to be able to go home and have access to what I needed. I couldn't imagine how difficult that could be for a woman who was in temporary accommodation or fleeing a domestic violence situation," she said.
"That was the wake up call for me to do something and that's when I started getting involved with Share the Dignity."
Amanda also works in schools and realised there are a high number of students who aren't able to stay at home, making purchasing sanitary products difficult.
"Not being able to afford a basic right and having to choose between eating or buying sanitary items for their period is appalling. This shouldn't be happening in Australia."
With COVID-19 pushing more vulnerable women and girls below the poverty line, and at greater risk of homelessness and domestic violence, #itsinthebag donations are in high demand.
"We're always collecting items to be added to the bags. It's wonderful to see the community get behind the initiative," Amanda said.
"It's nice for the women to also receive a bag at Christmas time because it's like a present filled with items that they need."
Once the bags have been donated and collected, Share the Dignity contact local support services before the bags are handed out to those in need.
"All of the bags and items that are donated stay in our area, they all go to local women," Amanda said.
"Any excess bags would be sent to areas of need such as remote Indigenous communities, but each year all of our local bags are donated locally and we don't have any leftover."
Amanda said sometimes just donating one item can be enough as it helps top up one of the bags.
"People don't need to donate a full bag, anything they can spare can really help," she said.
At this stage, the local Share the Dignity volunteers will be donating around 70 bags to service providers to then pass on to people who need them.
"It's a great effort. I think we will have a few more bags by the end of Sunday as well."
Items can be donated at Bunnings Port Macquarie until 7pm on Sunday (November 28).
Locals can get involved with the campaign or find out more information through the Share the Dignity It's in the Bag Port Macquarie Facebook group.
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