In a year when charities have faced some of their most challenging circumstances, the generosity of people like 15-year-old Jake Sbardella means more than ever.
The Buninyong resident handed funds to four separate organisations at the weekend, including St Vincent DePaul, the OnTrack Foundation, Uniting Care and Anglicare.
"It's great we can get some help like that," said Graeme Trethowan of St Vincent De Paul, who met Jake at the Soup Bus in Ballarat East to receive the funds directly.
We don't get any government assistance and Jack's helped for the last five years. Without his help, some people would go without.Graeme Trethowan of St Vincent De Paul
"It has been [a difficult year]. We've done call-outs to our people, our assistance centre hasn't been open.
"It's been hard to fundraise too, donations aren't coming in like other years. COVID has made it more difficult to see people, that's the main reason behind it.
"We don't get any government assistance and Jack's helped for the last five years. Without his help, some people would go without."
Kath Trethowan agreed, saying, "We look forward to Jake every year now, he does an amazing job."
Jake has been fundraising in the lead-up to Christmas time since 2016, an annual effort born of a desire to help do something to address the homelessness problem.
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Each year, he has done so by selling "Happiness" advent calendars decorated with inspirational quotes.
Despite his own pandemic challenges - the markets he has previously used to sell the calendars at were often not running this year - he still managed to raise a total of $4300.
This year, the income was supplemented by pallet Christmas trees, with calendars also being sold in a few select local shops .
Jake, who starts to plan for the fundraising as early as January, said the work had seemed more important than ever during this pandemic year.
"I feel like it has brought more of an awareness for everyone - and that's a good thing," he said.
Lorraine Gittings of the Soup Bus - which is also run by the OnTrack Foundation - said the funding received would go towards the foundation's education scholarships. She said the main challenge for the Soup Bus this year had been logistical rather than financial as the group adapted to the pandemic - but that its service had still been able to carry on five days a week with the help of the organisation's 300 volunteers.
Of the fundraising, which she received on Saturday, she said: "[Jake] is an exceptional young man with a wonderful mum, who is a guiding light behind him," she said. "He could spend it on himself but instead he's chosen to give to others.
"I don't know how you thank a young man like that."
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