More than $150,000 has been raised for the Les Twentyman Foundation in a fundraising lunch held in Melbourne on Friday.
The blaze that devastated Footscray’s Little Saigon markets on Tuesday also destroyed thousands of school books and toys donated to the Les Twentyman Foundation for Christmas, along with computer equipment used as part of a back-to-school program.
Close to $300,000 has so far been raised since the fire to assist the charity.
Labor leader and Maribyrnong MP Bill Shorten drew together businesses, sports stars, social figures, unions and politicians at Crown on Friday to raise more than $150,000 to help the foundation bounce back in time for Christmas and the new school year.
The fundraising lunch comes on the heels of a $10,000 donation from the CFMEU Victorian Branch.
Mr Shorten said Mr Twentyman has always stood up for kids who are doing it hard in the western suburbs.
“He has been there for the disadvantage kids of the west and the families at Christmas, it’s now our time to be there for him.”
Mr Twentyman said he has been touched by the outpouring of community support since the fire.
“Adversity can sometimes turn into something positive,” he said.
“The champions today are the people of the western suburbs who have come together to give this Christmas something special.”
Mr Twentyman said the Foundation is now frantically searching for new premises to house the back-to-school program in time for a January start.
“We need the building so the kids can start the 2017 school year with all their materials.”
Gellibrand MP Tim Watts said his office has been inundated with donations to help replace the Christmas gifts and textbooks for disadvantaged kids that had been collected by the Les Twentyman Foundation before the fire.
“I’m very pleased to see the community of Melbourne’s west come out in support of Les Twentyman, coming and really digging deep to replace those lost Christmas gifts, to fundraise to help replace those textbooks,” he said.
Foundation chief executive Wayne Owens said the Foundation has received overwhelming support since Tuesday’s fire.
“What we have seen, is a community taking action and this action is incredibly uplifting in what is a very emotional time for my team,” he said.
Gifts have been pouring in from all quarters, including western suburbs sporting clubs and primary schools.
Gifts and donations can be left at Tim Watts’ electoral office in Footscray or Replenish at 20 Douglas Pde, Williamstown.
They can also be made at the Western Bulldogs’ Christmas Open Training Session at Whitten Oval from 8–10.30am Saturday.
The Seddon Community Bank Branch will be setting up a drop-off point for new donations and gifts at the Carols in the Yarraville Gardens event this Saturday night.
Donations can also be made online at www.ltfoundation.com.au.
Meanwhile businesses and concerned locals are preparing a fundraiser in central Footscray for Thursday, December 22.
Volunteers are sought for tasks including marketing, logistics, setup and cleanup – email firstname.lastname@example.org. to register interest.
A relief fund to assist traders has been set up at pozible.com/project/little-saigon-fire-relief-fund