Jake Sbardella trades in spreading happiness, which in turn makes a difference to people in Ballarat who need a helping hand.
For the past four years, Jake, 14, has been volunteering his time to create and sell his Happiness Advent Calendars to raise money for the homeless.
Unlike traditional chocolate or candy advent calendars, Jake's calendars offer a happiness quote or joke to read each day in the countdown to Christmas and Easter, to remind people how blessed they are in life. They also feature the characters of Pugsly the Pug, Felix the Fox, Carla the Cat and Rosie the Rabbit.
Since he started his project aged 11, Jake has donated $15,200 to local Ballarat charities, and on Friday he presented his 2019 takings of $4200 to Anglicare Ballarat, Soup Bus, St Vincent De Paul, Uniting Care and the One Humanity Shower Bus.
When Jake's mum Emma contacted Uniting Care to discuss the donation, outreach workers Adam Liversage said what they really needed were summer sleeping bags, tents and sleeping mats.
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.Dr Seuss
So on Friday, Jake arrived to hand over 11 sleeping bags, two and three man tents and sleeping mats that will be distributed to those who need them.
Having run his Happiness Advent Calendar project for several years now, Jake has repeat customers who come back each year for a new calendar.
And the inspirational quotes that inspire happiness change each calendar except for one quote which stays on Christmas Eve each year.
"What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."
The quote is from Dr Seuss and it's Jake's favourite quote, the one he feels most is apt to make people stop and think about their happiness and others doing it tough in the community.
Jake, who was named Ballarat's Young Citizen of the Year in 2019 for his fundraising efforts, sources his quotes and jokes from his everyday life, his schooling and the online world.
He said he has always been concerned about the homeless and wanted to do something to help.
I've been given the gift of a home and a loving and caring family. Some people in the world don't really have (support and shelter), so it means a lot to me that the homeless people have somewhere to sleep," Jake said.
Being so young there was little he could do on the front line to help Ballarat's vulnerable residents, so he hit on the idea of the calendars and set about designing, producing and selling them with the help of his mum.
"By raising money and giving it to organisations that need it they can use it however they want," he said.
There are several Christmas and one Easter design which Jake sells through his Facebook page, markets and local shops throughout the year.
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