News Release

Latter-day Saint Receives People's Choice 'Spirit of Volunteering' Award in Western Australia

 

Michelle Dunlop, who is well-known in Perth for her work in helping the homeless for the past nine years, was honoured as the People’s Choice “Spirit of Volunteering” award winner at a gala dinner held in Perth on 11th May 2017.

Michelle’s path to the award began many years ago. “From a young age, I had a social conscience, a desire to help people who are suffering. My mother died when I was six, and along with my siblings we endured a hard life without our mother."

“It began very small—just bringing food and warm clothing and blankets to about 10 homeless people in the Perth CBD once a week. In the past nine years our project has grown to the point we now serve an average of 150 each week. We have many people helping us in this effort, which makes it so much easier. We have been there every Thursday night except when Christmas or Australia Day falls on a Thursday for the past nine years.”

Her organisation, known as “Street Friends” distributes donations of warm clothing, blankets, and food from many different sources to the homeless. A Street Doctor van also pulls up while food and clothing are being distributed, and outreach workers walk among the people and invite those who look like they might need attention to come to the van.

Michelle is a member of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “I get wonderful support from the Church. The young people take turns coming to help. They put on a sausage sizzle and distribute blankets and warm clothing which they have gathered,” she said.

Andrew Reedy, leader of the young men’s organisation in the church's Jandakot congregation commented, “The work Michelle is doing typifies the work that Christ wants all of us to be involved in. It offers a wonderful opportunity for our youth to engage in service and to develop empathy and understanding for those less fortunate than they are.”

Several community groups and countless individuals are contributing to Street Friends. The North Coast Stake has prepared Christmas gift boxes to be given out to the homeless for the past four years. For most of the recipients, it will be the only Christmas gift they receive. “It brought tears to our eyes to see how happy and grateful they were when they received their Christmas gifts,“ Michelle said, speaking for all the volunteers.

Street Friends is also present in the Freemantle area and is run by Ruth Marshall, who previously worked with Michelle in the Perth CBD.  Michele also credits her husband Graham with being an integral part of Street Friends' success.

In addition to her work with the homeless, Michelle co-founded the Grief Centre of Western Australia three years ago, which offers support and understanding by way of groups and counselling for people experiencing grief. The centre is run by volunteers and provides services for the bereaved at no cost.

She also assists refugees and asylum seekers with visa and immigration needs and has been able to help several several asylum seekers be able to live and find work in the community.

Michelle will be doing a radio interview on Sonshine FM Radio 98.5 on Tuesday 23rd May at 11am. She is hoping the publicity generated by this interview and her award will encourage more people to participate, and the government to step up and help fund a shelter they can work out of in the CBD. “When it’s cold and raining it’s hard for both the homeless and the volunteers to be out while the food and supplies are being distributed,” Michelle remarked..

“People want to help but often don’t know what to do. We leverage the work and use all the help that is offered.  If they get in touch with us, we can help them find the best way for them to begin volunteering."

Here is a video tribute to Michelle Dunlop's volunteering: 

                               

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