Every year from February the front room in Shirley Edwards house begins to fill to the brim with handbags and gifts.
The Sanctuary Point resident isn't a shopaholic - she's dedicated to helping women and girls in crisis.
Shirley began collecting handbags, essential toiletries, and gift items to donate to Share the Dignity four years ago.
In her first year she donated 50 bags filled with goodies. This year, with the help of family, friends and the local community, she's donated more than 430 bags to the charity's 'It's In The Bag' Christmas appeal.
They were distributed to 11 local charities to be given to women and teenage girls experiencing homelessness, sleeping rough, or seeking refuge in domestic violence shelters.
In total, Shirley estimates she's donated around 1100 bags since joining the cause.
While her house has become the base for all donations, and she herself is responsible for quality control, Shirley said it's a team effort.
"My elderly friend who is 90 has been involved for three years and every time she goes grocery shopping, she buys a few things to put in a bag," she said.
"This year just by doing that she donated enough toiletries for 110 bags."
Shirley's two daughters have become involved, spreading the word among their friends and helping keep the donations coming.
The handwritten notes wish that person the best that they can and to let them know there's someone out there thinking of them.Shirley Edwards
The local op shops including Vinnies, Salvation Army and the Uniting Church op-shop in Huskisson have also supported the cause.
Each bag includes all the essential toiletries, along with extras such as scarves, jewellry, perfume and nail polish. A handwritten note from Shirley's family members also makes it into almost all of the bags.
"The extra things are about letting people know that we care. These are items that we take for granted," Shirley said.
"The handwritten notes wish that person the best that they can and to let them know there's someone out there thinking of them."
Every year towards Christmas Shirley's house fills with people who spend hours packing the bags and storing them in every available room.
Shirley then spends the next few days making sure the bags are filled with everything someone in need could need.
While it's a labour of love and at times has become a little more than she thought she could handle, Shirley said she has no plans to stop yet.
" Items are already starting to come in for next year and I thought, how can you not?" she said.
"At the end of the day it's not about me. It's about helping someone in need.
"There will be ladies and girls this year who wouldn't have otherwise received a gift and now they will."
The It's in the Bag campaign has a simple premise:
- Donate a handbag in good, used condition that you no longer use.
- Fill it with items that will make a difference to the daily life of a woman experiencing homelessness, domestic violence or period poverty;
- Include the essentials such as pads and tampons, roll on deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner and soap.
- Add little luxuries like lip balm and new socks, a magazine - anything that would make a woman or teenage girl feel special.
Individuals who donate bags are encouraged to pop a thoughtful note into the bag to show these women and girls that someone cares and that they matter.
The campaign will run until December 7. Bags can be dropped off at South Nowra Bunnings.
Local Share the Dignity volunteers will collect the donated bags and distribute to shelters and charities, ensuring these lovingly prepared bags are available for women and girls in time for Christmas.
- In Australia, domestic and family violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and their children and most women leaving a violent relationship move out of their home.
- Each year 1 in 42 women aged 15-24 will access a specialist homelessness service.
- In 2017 over 2,200 women in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out** and we can only expect that with increasing poverty that this number could well now be higher.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are also 35 times more likely to be victims of domestic violence.
- 3.2 million Australians are currently living the below poverty line with many women and young girls experiencing period poverty on a monthly basis unable to afford sanitary items.