September 25, 2017
After seeing a short film on the struggle of homeless women in America to gain access to showers or sanitary products, Kerry McKendrick found herself unable to ignore the plight of women on the streets in her local area. Together with friend Tanya Cates, Kerry began looking for a way to distribute “Dignity Kits” late last year, containing clean undies and sanitary items. When Sandra Nottle from The Salvation Army came on board the program grew to gain traction. Upon hearing about the program, Cotton On Body donated a year’s supply of underwear to aid in the cause.

Sandra works tirelessly with a dedicated team of outreach workers to distribute the donated products collected by Tanya and Kerry. Her team of volunteers roams Melbourne at night to find and help women living on the streets.

When we spoke to Sandra, Kerry and Tanya they described the women as vulnerable and often displaying complex needs arising from childhood abuse, sexual abuse, mental health issues, and alcohol and drug abuse.

Cotton On Body Dignity Kits

From left, Carmel Ring (staff member, The Salvation Army Melbourne Project 614) Kerry McKendrick & Tanya Cates (The Dignity Kit project), Major Sandra Nottle (The Salvation Army Melbourne Project 614)

The Dignity Kits provide far more than practical necessities. They offer a conduit to make a connection with some of these most vulnerable women, many of whom are initially reluctant to engage with support services or ask for help.

The response to the kits has been extremely positive, lifting the spirits of those in need and extending to women who now come into The Salvation Army requesting them. It’s clear they provide much-needed relief and an opportunity for connection on the basis of commonality.

Word of mouth has been a strong driver for The Dignity Kit program, but it remains a team of selfless volunteers who help to collect items and pack up to 80 kits a month containing clean undies, socks and sanitary pads. To date the team has successfully passed on more than 400 kits to the Salvation Army.

The help of volunteers and The Salvation Army program is crucial, as distribution and logistics present the biggest challenge for the team in growing the program. They are looking to expand to include summer essentials, such as hats and sunscreen, and incontinence pads for the older demographics.

Click here to get involved or donate via the Salvation Army website.

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