Winter has hit Canberra hard and fast this year. And the rising cost of living is also making winter bleak for many in the national capital.
To help ease the pressure on people - and to keep them warm - Canberrans attending next weekend's Handmade Market are being asked to consider contributing to its blanket drive.
Bring a blanket to donate or a warm coat or sleeping bag that will then be distributed to those in need by the Salvation Army. Shoppers can also drop off toiletries at the market which will be given to people sleeping rough in Canberra.
The market is on at Exhibition Park next weekend and owner and founder Julie Nichols is thrilled that it is able to stage the blanket drive again. It was last held in winter 2019 before COVID precautions shut the in-person market for two years.
But after the market returned to EPIC in April, Julie has been busy ensuring the blanket drive was revived, working in tandem with Lieutenant Mitchell Stevens from the Canberra City Salvos.
"Last time we collected hundreds of blankets," Julie said. "There were enough, apparently, to last the winter for everyone in the Canberra region."
Julie asked everyone planning to attend the market to consider bringing a clean blanket or warm coat or sleeping bag that would keep another person warm this winter.
"If you wouldn't donate it to a family member, then it's probably not suitable to go to donation," she said.
"Just go through your cupboards and if there's a blanket that you're not using anymore, bring it. We're not after all clothes, no shoes or anything like that. Just coats, jackets, sleeping bags."
Lieutenant Stevens said donations of toiletry packs would also be greatly appreciated for people sleeping rough.
The Salvation Army was seeing more and more people seeking help, including those who would usually donate to charities but were now, reluctantly, seeking help themselves.
"The cost of living has increased dramatically, especially in Canberra," Lieutenant Stevens said.
"There's a proportion of people in Canberra this doesn't affect, public servants, people with good jobs. But people living off Centrelink or on low incomes are being hit harder. People are choosing whether they are going to put petrol in the car or buy extra groceries."
The Handmade Market, meanwhile, is a shot in the arm for small business people in Canberra - and across the nation.
There will be more than 240 stalls at the market next weekend, with the emphasis on products that keep you warm and cosy during the colder months.
"There's lots of new stalls and lots of good winter things. Lots of scarves and jackets and coats," she said.
"There's also all the old favourites and lots of great food as well."
Julie said finally returning to the in-person event in April had been amazing.
"It was just fun. Everyone was happy to be there. The customers were happy to see the stallholders, the stallholders were happy to see the customers. Everybody just enjoyed themselves," she said.
"But, I think more than anything, it was a relief that it actually happened and it happened successfully. It's a bit of a nod to, 'These businesses might survive'."
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