Tomago Aluminium Workplace Giving Fund has raised more than $2 million for charities

GRATEFUL: Peree Watson and Melissa Histon (founder) from Got Your Back Sista with workers at the Tomago Aluminium cheque presentation. Picture: Supplied
GRATEFUL: Peree Watson and Melissa Histon (founder) from Got Your Back Sista with workers at the Tomago Aluminium cheque presentation. Picture: Supplied

Maintaining a community focus and continuing its vital fundraising program during the coronavirus pandemic has provided an integral platform for the workers at Tomago Aluminium.

An employee initiative that has been active for more than 30 years, the Tomago Workplace Giving Fund has raised more than $2 million for charities and is not slowing down, despite the impact of COVID-19.

The fund's most recent recipients are Soul Café, Carrie's Place, Got Your Back Sista and headspace Newcastle, each receiving $10,500, a quarter-share of a total of $42,000 raised by the company's workforce and matched dollar-for-dollar by management.

Communications advisor, Katie Burns said charity representatives had attended two morning tea presentations a week apart in order to comply with social distancing rules.

"While we were unable to encourage people to gather, we were able to give the money to the groups who need it and that was the most important thing for us," Ms Burns said.

Got Your Back Sista is a small, self-funded organisation that relies on fundraising, grants and community generosity to help women and children escape domestic violence and restart their lives.

"The funds donated by Tomago will be able to provide furniture and household items such as beds, white goods and linen to women who have fled a violent home and are moving into their new homes, safe from violence," said founder and chief executive Melissa Histon.

Soul Café, a community-funded charity, provides more than 40,000 meals annually to vulnerable people and also helps with a broad range of support services including laundry, mental health, medical services, Centrelink contact, housing and legal support.

Karen McKenzie, Carrie's Place specialist domestic violence program manager, said the substantial donation would help create a functional and welcoming community space at its East Maitland headquarters so those using it can be comfortable and freely utilise resources.

Headspace Newcastle's Byron Williams said the group relies on community support to deliver quality programs and projects to young people in areas that included Port Stephens.

This year's presentations coincided with a name change for Tomago Aluminium's charity program from the Out-of-Pay Donation Scheme to the Tomago Workplace Giving Fund.

"Tomago Aluminium's management and employees take great pride in giving back to the community by supporting worthwhile causes and through the Workplace Giving Fund we have the opportunity to make a substantial amount of money available to some very worthy causes. This year, our goal is to encourage more members to the fund and increase our annual donation amount - we can always do better," said Wayne Pringle, Australian Workers' Union Site delegate.

"We have a great culture of giving back to our community and it is something we will continue to foster," Ms Burns said.

"Everyone at Tomago is happy to get behind these hardworking community groups because we believe that, with just a small weekly donation from our pay packets, we can really make a difference.

"Every employee is encouraged to contribute and every year the money is divided between local charities, with employees nominating and voting to decide which groups will be supported each year."

Tomago's fundraising efforts have helped more than 40 charities over the past 30 years, including $1 million to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter. It was also a strong supporter of drought-stricken farmers during the 'Buy A Bale' campaign, donating $50,000 and raised an additional $50,000 for local Rural Fire Service brigades in the wake of the devastating 2019-20 bushfires.