Masks for all - donation helps keep homeless safe

By Morgan Dyer

Five-hundred masks will make their way through the streets of Shepparton and land on the faces of some of the region’s most vulnerable people.

Greater Shepparton homelessness advocate Kim O’Keeffe teamed up with Vital Health Checks founder Ricky Nixon to ensure everyone in the community had access to a face mask.

Ms O’Keeffe said she saw a number of homeless people not wearing masks and knew she needed to do something.

“I knew Ricky was selling masks through his company, so I called him to ask what a wholesale price would be,” Ms O’Keeffe said.

“But he told me not to worry and donated and delivered the masks to Shepparton the next day.

“Obviously health is paramount, so we need to make sure everyone has the same protection and the same opportunities to be kept safe.”

The delivery included hundreds of masks and reusable plastic face shields which are in line with government regulations.

Azem Elmaz from Lutfiyes Shish Kebab joined the project and will distribute the masks to local vulnerable people.

Mr Nixon said his company, which supplies businesses with health care and health products, had ordered more than half-a-million masks in the past week and had another 500,000 face shields getting delivered later this week.

“A lot of people are in a bad way at the moment but many of them have a home to go to and nothing could be worse than being on the streets like these people,” Mr Nixon said.

“We have to make that effort to help them.”

Mr Nixon and Ms O’Keeffe said they wanted to continue the partnership throughout the pandemic.

“My aspiration is to have some funds across the community so we can continue to provide masks to homeless people and vulnerable people in our community,” Ms O’Keeffe said.

“It’s fantastic that when people are in need of something our community tends to be a magnet and every time I feel so privileged that people constantly support initiatives similar to this.”

Shepparton vulnerable resident Terry Haberman thanked the project founders for their kind work.

“Having a mask means I don’t get fined and it helps me and the rest of the community to try and beat this virus,” Mr Haberman said.

“It's huge, the community spirit in Shepparton, and you really understand that when you are doing it tough.”

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