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Community Chest

08 Jul 2020

Community Chest Image

By Meg Hill

The Community Chest is a small charity and op shop that has helped shape South Melbourne’s community landscape since 1946.

Maintaining a focus on the suburb for 74 years, it has helped establish aged care homes and youth centres and has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to community groups.

And on July 1 the Chest had its lease at 200 – 202 Bank St renewed for another five years by the City of Port Phillip, in the latest recognition of the charity’s local work.

Long term store manager Dallas Hall told Southbank News the Chest was unique in the area and among charities.

“All the money we make here in the store goes back into the local community through local community groups. I’ve been here for 21 years and we’re one of the few independent charities still running,” she said.

“I call us the true local. We do have other charity stores in South Melbourne, and they all do a great job, like the Salvation Army, but we’re the one true local organisation.”

The charity was founded in 1946 by the former council – the City of South Melbourne – local businesses and community representatives.

In 1949 the Chest purchased a factory at 421 Coventry St for conversion into a youth centre run by the YMCA.

In the early 1950s it underwrote the establishment of the Claremont Home for the Aged.

The Chest’s first shop was located on Park St until 1983, when it moved to its current location on Bank St.

The property was offered to the Chest by the council at a rate of $1 per annum to honour the charity’s work. The building is itself a part of the suburb’s history. It was built in 1895 by former Mayor of South Melbourne John Boyd.

Since 2010 the lease has been extended for five years at a time.

Over its most recent five years, the Chest has awarded $260,000 in grants to 29 local organisations. The grant money is raised through the Bank St op-shop.

“Once a year we hand out grants, any community groups located in the City of Port Phillip can apply to us for funding,” Dallas Hall said.

“At the moment we’ve got applications open. They will close in August. We’ve got a sign in our window for community groups wanting funding, they can come in and get an application form.”

“At the end of the year we have a presentation for successful applicants, they give a talk on what they’re going to do with the money, and we have an afternoon tea, it’s a really nice local community gathering.”

A team of 16 volunteers help run the shop operations, which resumed in May after a few month’s closure due to the pandemic.

“I started as a volunteer 21 years ago,” Dallas Hall said.

“I started because I was living next door and I wasn’t working. My kids were very young, and I thought it’d be a great thing to do just to have some interaction with people and not be at home with young children all the time.”

“I’ve lived around here for 40 years and it’s a community that I love and a really nice atmosphere working within it.” •

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