Getting back to basics

Kaidi, Shanleigh, Kelly and Rhyan sort clothes for Bk2Basics Melbourne. 179758 Picture: GARY SISSONS.

Bk2Basics Melbourne is a Narre Warren-based organisation dedicated to helping those in need. Founder Kelly Warren sat down with REBECCA SKILTON to discuss how her hobby transformed into a full-time initiative that now has her assisting people state-wide.

Ten months ago Kelly Warren started an endeavour to help those who had struck hard times in their lives.

“I was doing outreach for the homeless before I started Bk2Basics and then I realised that it wasn’t just the homeless that needed help,” she said.

“It was everyday families. So it didn’t matter if someone had two jobs or a new car, utility bills were still high and people were struggling to put food on their table for their kids.

“So I said I just want to do something that’s for everybody. And that’s when I started Bk2Basics. I’m waiting on a total knee replacement so it was meant to be small, sort of a hobby while I couldn’t work. But it’s grown and it’s just got huge.”

With more than one thousand Facebook likes, Kelly’s intended hobby has quickly turned into the likes of a full time job. Employing the help of her husband Craig and her three daughters Kaidi (9), Rhyan (10) and Shanleigh (17), Kelly now volunteers around the clock seven days a week.

Relying heavily on community donations, the Warren family wash, sort and distribute the likes of clothing, food and even furniture to those in need. Kelly cooks and distributes her home-cooked meals, and – out of the Warren’s own pockets – she also purchases underwear, socks and sanitary items and create ‘packs’ to hand out during outreach sessions.

“It’s really a 24/7 job,” Kelly said.

“Every day I’m sorting, making packs. We go through 70 hygiene packs and hundreds of new pairs of socks a week. Craig and I usually spend about 200 dollars on socks because I refuse to give out second hand socks and underwear.”

Another defining feature of Kelly’s role is her ‘call outs.’ These can come at any time of the day or night, from any part of the state and are often from people who, on the outside, may appear to be well-to-do.

“We go wherever we’re needed,” Kelly said.

“One lady recently contacted me and she said, ‘can you help me, I’ve got nothing. I’ve got the house but I’ve got nothing.’

“We walked into her house and all she had was a sleeping bag and a blanket. That was it, her house was empty.

“We did a shout out and within two hours we’d furnished her whole house … and that was through the community – that was through everyone around here donating.”

Constantly surrounded by those having come across hard times, Kelly believes that one of the barriers many people need to overcome is their tendency to judge those less fortunate than themselves.

“(It can be easy to) say well they’re wearing Nikes, they’re doing this, they’re doing that, and to be judgmental and think they don’t need help. I just say, open your blinkers and look, we give them Nikes … we give them stuff,” Kelly said

“Even with people turning up in flash cars (to pick up things from our house). It doesn’t mean anything. They could have had that car two years, or three years and everything has since turned and they’re now struggling.

“And it doesn’t matter where you come from. People are struggling.

“Because what people don’t understand is that you can have your job, your life; you can have everything today and tomorrow it can just crumble. Tomorrow you could lose your job, you can’t get another one, you can’t pay your rent, no money in the savings, because you live week by week – where are you going to end up if you’ve got no family?”

Having relocated to Australia from New Zealand only five years ago, Kelly admits that she has always had a passion for helping those around her – an enthusiasm that her children have now taken on.

“I’ve always loved helping people,” Kelly said.

“But I think it (really started) when I had (my eldest). I was about 27 and I just stopped thinking about myself because I had another little person to look after and then it just went from there.

“And the kids now do so much. They’ve missed out on birthdays, they’ve missed out on sport but they don’t see it as missing out because they don’t want to go, they want to help.”

Recognising that one of the best ways to encourage people to become involved with helping others is by educating children, Kelly has plans to expand Bak2Basics, with one initiative being in-school presentations.

“I really want to get into talking in schools. Because as adults we have our blinkers on – it’s the kids can change that. And by talking in schools, they can go home and say ‘this happened at school’ and you know maybe the parents will listen. I just really want to get kids involved,” she said.

“But for now, we really just need the donations piling in.”


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