It’s hard to believe that in a population of 142,000, Community Support Frankston helps nearly 13,000 people each year – that’s almost 10% of the local population, providing support like basic living essentials and emergency food relief. For five years, the Lodge of Honour, with support from FFV, has contributed funds to Community Support Frankston (CSF) to help those experiencing financial hardship in the local community. We spoke with the Lodge Secretary and CSF's manager about community need and the Lodge’s part in it.
It began in 2018, when the Lodge was on a search for a charity to support in the local area. The then Secretary had a mate, another Freemason, who was a volunteer at Community Support Frankston. Current Lodge Secretary Harry Grayson explained how the partnership began. “We went down there to see what they were doing. Back then, they weren’t supporting nearly as many families as they do now.”
The Lodge liked that CSF was run largely by volunteers. “We went back to the Lodge and presented CSF as an option, and everyone was totally on board, in full agreement of this being our cause. So we started fundraising at Bunnings.” Harry says that a Bunnings sausage sizzle is ‘the classic’ in fundraising. The Lodge of Honour runs two per year, and they write up on a blackboard who the funds are going to be donated to.
“People come and ask us about it. They ask what else they can do to support it.”
Steve Phillips, CSF Manager, said the grand bulk of the Lodges’ and FFV’s support goes straight into the emergency relief account.
“We try and put as much money as is humanly possible into emergency relief (ER) programs,” he explained. “These programs help pay for essential pharmaceutical scripts, they help with people’s bills, petrol vouchers, even Myki passes – to help people get to work, get kids to school, get to an essential medical appointment or a job interview. CSF has accounts with local pharmacies, in case someone reaches out because they can’t afford an asthma pump for their child or stuff they don’t have on hand at the centre all the time like a walking frame, or incontinence pads.”
A recent topic of conversation is the struggle to keep up with the cost of living – the everyday bills.
“Brand new community members that have otherwise been managing are having to reach out to our ER program to say, look, I've had a red letter, I'm just not coping - is there anything that you can help with? We'll talk them through utility relief, grant schemes and Energy Saver bonuses. But when we exhaust all of that and all of their concessions and making sure that they're on the right rates, some still can’t afford it and they are living on the margins. And it's difficult.”
Donations go back into supporting the community almost entirely, and CSF is staffed by volunteers for the most part. Steve noted the high work expectation that is placed on volunteers – especially over the past couple of years. A frontline service like this one can’t be operated remotely.
Fundraising is crucial to CSF, and it’s important for the organisation to be accountable, and to have stats available to show the need, but also to engage with local business and local giving – whether that’s a Pay it Forward initiative at a local café or in-kind support, donations of things their clients might need. Steve plays a conduit role with local businesses that want to reach out and “do the right thing”, or might have excess product.
“We like to consider ourselves pretty well placed, having been in the game for over half a century, to do a really good job and make supporters feel confident that every dollar that comes to us goes back into community in the right way.
“Just last week, we broke a depressing record. We had 24 new families in one week that reached out for the very first time. So, that cost of living pressure that we're reading about on the news, and pollies keep on talking about all of the time, it's real.”
In their first year of supporting CSF in 2018, the Lodge raised $1,000, and FFV contributed $2,000. Each year since then the Lodge has raised the figure on the cheque by another $1,000. This year they gave $6,000. Aside from the blackboard at their sausage sizzles and notes in the Lodge meetings minutes, they don’t promote or publicise what they do. Harry said that not many people know about all the funding that FFV gets involved in, and not many Freemasons realise how easy it is to apply for funding for their own charitable activities. He says that the fundraising part isn’t complicated, you just have to “get off your bum and do it!” “Bunnings is a classic, or you could organise a Fun Run. Have a car boot sale in the Lodge carpark, charge entry for people to come in and buy something, add a sausage sizzle too - it’s not hard.”
After raising some funds of your own, applying for a FFV grant is just a “form-filling exercise” – filling in the basic details of what you want to support and how much you’ve raised. Harry explains that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. “You have to write an explanation about why you are supporting this charity. CSF has a mission that they have published, so I took that, and I use that as the basis of the explanation.” Any not-for-profit organisation should have a mission; check their website or ask for an Annual Review or other collateral – there’s information out there that can be repurposed to help fill in the application.
If you are in the Frankston area and you are open to a volunteer role, Steve says they’re really grateful for people that want to reach out and volunteer with CSF. There's lots of roles, from helping with deliveries, talking with people, doing assessments, taking calls, joining the lunches program. They’ll even pay for volunteers to do the nationally accredited training and support and mentor them along the way. If you are interested, visit https://frankston.net/volunteering/