Kate Austin is a fresh-faced mother of two from Melbourne and she’s a poo-pincher.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Austin collects the shampoo (get it?) and other toiletries, that are included in the cost of accommodation, when she stays in a hotel. Instead of keeping them for herself, she passes them on to homeless and disadvantaged people.
This simple act of kindness inspired Austin to encourage others to do the same and eventually she launched her own cheekily-named charity, Pinchapoo.
For six years, Austin and her team of volunteers have been collecting donations of various toiletries, sanitary products and cosmetics and delivering them to homeless shelters and organisations that support the disadvantaged.
Behind Austin’s cheerful demeanour, she carries the memory of a time when she needed to urgently leave her home for good and had no idea of where to go. Having only moments to decide what to take with her, she chose her toothbrush.
“Having access to my toothbrush was honestly the only thing that made me feel human again,” Austin says. “I felt like I could think straight and start to rebuild with this basic need filled.”
As a result of her experience, Austin is passionate about the link between good personal hygiene and self-esteem.
“Being in [a] similar position at a point in my life has made me want to live a lifetime of easing those situations for others. It’s very close to home and even closer to my heart,” Austin says.
According to the 2011 census results, 22,789 Victorians are homeless and almost half of them are under 25 years old. All of these people need to find a way to eat, sleep comfortably and shower.
Supplying toiletries to shelters can be expensive and this is where Pinchapoo comes in. Pinchapoo supplies toiletries to organisations such as the Salvation Army, Safe Futures Crisis Accommodation Centres and Wesley Mission, to name a few.
In addition to collecting donations, Austin also organises Pinchapoo’s campaigns and fundraising events.
A recent Pinchapoo campaign, entitled ‘Turn 18,000 ouchies into smiles,’ involved collecting 800 donated boxes of children’s character-printed band-aids for the Royal Children’s Hospital.
A private screening of the film ‘The Best of Me’ at Pinewood Cinemas is a recent example of a Pinchapoo fundraising event. 110 people attended the event and $1,600 was raised to assist with Pinchapoo’s running costs.
Austin runs Pinchapoo full-time. Her days are filled with meetings, administrative tasks, and sorting donations with her team of volunteers.
“Pinchapoo is my life! I often refer to it as my third child!” Austin says.
Austin does not receive a monetary wage from Pinchapoo but feels that she is “paid with love and inspiration, as corny as that sounds! It’s what keeps me going.”
Visiting the shelters that Pinchapoo assists has been Austin’s favourite part of the charity’s journey so far and a constant source of inspiration.
In 2014, Austin and her team began the process of applying for Pinchapoo’s recognition as a non-for-profit organisation. Receiving non-for-profit status will provide Pinchapoo access to grants, business partners and a larger network of supporters.
With a background in marketing, specialising in retail accounts, Austin understood the importance of branding Pinchapoo effectively and having a clear vision for its future. Austin is currently working on establishing Pinchapoo donation points in every state.
Pinchapoo was the first charity of its kind in Australia and it continues to stand out in the crowd, which is just the way Austin likes it.
“I don’t want to do what everyone else is doing – it’s been done before,” she says. “I want to make a new way forward.
“It’s always confused me that some charities feel they need to…attract attention with graphic, confronting images. I’d like to see people smile when they hear our name – after all, we say ‘poo’ lots!”
With the holiday season fast approaching, supporting Pinchapoo is the perfect way to incorporate a little giving into your festive season.
To learn more about Pinchapoo and find your local Pinchapoo toiletry donation point visit their website – http://www.pinchapoo.org.au
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