A new campaign is calling on community members to put their hand up for shifts at Ballarat businesses struggling to operate with staff shortages and extra COVID-related duties.
Commerce Ballarat launched the campaign to help businesses hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic in the lead up to Christmas.
Formosa Gardens Nursery co-owner Katie Wright said she was down three staff, with two choosing not to be vaccinated and one staff member required at the door checking QR codes and vaccination certificates.
Her family has been working 15 hour days and staff shortages in a busy gardening season means they have been struggling to keep up with core business like watering plants.
This (volunteer campaign) is a tiny little bandaid for a few weeks to help businesses do what they do.Jodie Gillett, Commerce Ballarat
Former Masterchef contestant and Ballarat community identity Tim Bone volunteered to complete a four hour shift at Formosa Gardens Nursery checking vaccination certificates and QR codes on Tuesday.
"We're finally coming out of lockdowns but it is still such a struggle for businesses," he said.
"I am passionate about our town and want to do whatever I can to help.
"As a love of food and shopping it is hard to see and hear stories of people copping it out the front. It breaks my heart."
Commerce Ballarat chief executive Jodie Gillett said added COVID-19 responsibilities were taking staff away from their core business.
She said businesses were desperate for staff and had been advertising through all avenues, but were struggling to find workers due to a 'perfect storm' of factors.
Ms Gillett said there was a lack of international workers, university students not moving to town and lockdowns turning people away from affected industries.
"Even though we are at full capacity with restrictions now, some venues are choosing to reduce their capacity because they do not have enough staff," she said.
"We want businesses to have the best possible chance to make their returns in the lead up to Christmas. The better they do over Christmas the more jobs there will be long term.
"This (volunteer campaign) is a tiny little band-aid for a few weeks to help businesses do what they do."
Ms Gillett said anyone looking for work should contact Commerce Ballarat and their details would be passed on to businesses, as there were hundreds of jobs that needed to be filled.
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Ms Gillett said the campaign had received a 'great response' so far from people signing up to volunteer.
Ms Wright said it would make a massive difference to Formosa Gardens Nursery's ability to operate in their busiest period.
City of Ballarat is supporting the Commerce Ballarat campaign. Chief executive Evan King said he would be signing up to do a shift.
People interested in volunteering can fill in a form, detailing any skills they may have and the Commerce Ballarat team will match them with a venue that has requested help.
Commerce Ballarat invited businesses to give a gift voucher as a thank you to volunteers.
"Our community has been incredible supporting businesses throughout COVID. This is just an extension of that," Ms Gillett said.
"Critical staff shortages are not a Ballarat problem, it is everyone. This is community stepping up to help others."
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