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By Derek Schlennstedt

An emergency relief centre is just as its name suggests – a place established to provide support and essential needs to persons affected by an emergency.
One of those relief centres which certainly lives up to its name has been duly recognised for their ongoing commitment to helping the wider community in the Dandenong Ranges, and on 2 August Australian philanthropist Philip Wollen, OAM, visited the Dandenong Ranges Emergency Relief Service (DRERS) to commend them on their amazing work.
Not only Did Mr Woolen praise DRERS for their work helping the community, but also he accepted the position of patron and donated $10,000 to the not-for-profit organisation.
Located in Belgrave, DRERS offers support to people who are homeless and disadvantaged. That support comes in the form of food, food vouchers, payment of prescriptions, clothing vouchers, assistance with paying bills, advocacy, referrals and crisis counselling.
Mr Wollen, a previous Australian of the Year winner said “DRERS was the best way” to help the hundreds of people in the hills area who do not have enough to eat, and hoped the hill community would support the organisation and the important work they did.
“I am profoundly impressed by the work of DRERS, a small and vibrant organisation which punches above its weight,” he said.
“Their compassion and commitment to the most vulnerable members of our community is astonishing.”
Mr Wollen supports some 500 humanitarian projects in over 40 countries and heard of the charitable work that DRERS was undertaking through a close friend.
He said he felt honoured to have been offered the position of patron, and said that he and his wife Trix would continue to offer support to the organisation which he described ‘as having all the necessary qualities to help those living in the hills.
“As we travel around the world, we constantly look at small organisations that have certain qualities,” he said.
“They need to be ethical, caring for the community, and they need to care for the health of their community- after spending time with them, I discovered they had all three qualities.”
Tania Bevan, manager at DRERS said they were ‘honoured’ to receive the donation and to have him as patron and that the donation would be a big help in improving and delivering services.
“We feel very honoured and extremely pleased … it will certainly help us in providing resources we need to help those people at risk or who are homeless.”
“We aim to help people to become self-reliant, reducing their financial and emotional stress so that our community can become healthier and stronger,” Ms Bevan said.
Homeless week that highlights the need for homeless support ended on Sunday 13 August, and Mr Wollen’s donation was a timely reminder that these organisations need the help of the community.
Mr Wollen said that it was a community responsibility to support an organisation that helped disadvantaged members of the community.
“No business or organisation succeeds in a big theatre, unless it succeeds in its local area; I really call on everyone in the Dandenong Ranges to get behind this organisation which I’m going to be very proud to represent.”

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