When the working day is done and the kids are in bed, Sydney lawyer Trish Williams doesn’t crash on the couch in front of My Kitchen Rules, she gets down to business dreaming up ingenious ways to build her philanthropic online initiative Gertie and Ruth.
Named after Trish’s two grandmothers, Gertie and Ruth sells donated and scavenged secondhand and vintage goods and hand-knitted tea cosies, made by Trish’s mother Ann, “who has seen some difficult times but has never faltered”. The money raised goes to support women and children experiencing homelessness and domestic violence, at Bonnie’s and the Marnja Jarndu Refuge in Broome, Western Australia.
For a long time I was feeling like there are so many people that need help in the world, where do you start?” said Trish. “It can make you feel quite hopeless. It seems so big.
I know a few people that have been affected by domestic violence and it got to the point where I felt I just had to do something.
My mother is a wonderful knitter and she wanted to help. So we decided to sell tea cosies online and donate the funds we raised to a women’s refuge.
I had certain criteria that I wanted the organisation we chose to meet. They had to be secular – not linked to any religious organisation, and all of the funds had to go directly towards helping the women, not to admin. I gave Bonnie’s a call and we chose to go with them. They’ve been on the ground for a long time and the work they do with the women and children is amazing.
After reading the statistics on indigenous domestic and family violence, I decided we would also support an organisation that works extensively with indigenous women and children and I basically just googled it. That’s how I found the WA refuge.
We’ve donated $2,100 so far but I’m hoping we’ll be up to $3,000 soon. The bulk of the money has gone to Bonnie’s but I’m in the process of trying to arrange a shipment of 12 boxes of clothes, personal items and toys up to Broome right now, collected by my amazing friend Felicity Ford who posted a request for donations on Facebook and was just inundated!
We launched Gertie and Ruth in mid-December and mum did an amazing job making these beautiful tea cosies in a very short time. We decided we would also sell vegan chocolates and marshmallows. But our biggest sellers have been the books and vintage furniture and bric-a-brac.
The support we’ve had has been amazing. Felicity and a friend of hers used their houses as drop-off points for clothes. The Mitchell Road Design and Antique Centre and Old School Road are two businesses that have provided so many lovely things for us to sell. We have one woman who collects books and delivers them to our verandah.
We had a man who donated three vintage teapots, which we then sold to a community organisation in Adelaide, called Uniting Communities, for use in their travelling teapot caravan, Colleen. They go out to the suburbs and hold free Devonshire tea parties as a way of building community!
One day I went to look at some furniture that someone wanted to donate but it wasn’t in great condition. Then I saw this vintage skateboard sitting there. I thought maybe my boys might like it. But we did a bit of an online search and realised it was a collector’s item. We ended up selling it for $450!
There have been a few big sales. My niece’s husband, who plays A-league soccer, donated a signed jersey which we sold for $180 on Ebay. But mostly it’s just small amounts. Sometimes it feels like a drop in the ocean when you think about the size of the problem but it all adds up!
We get a lot of lovely messages from people who say ‘it’s great what you’re doing’. I think there are a lot of people out there who feel like I did – they want to do something to make a difference but don’t know where to start. So they’re really happy to have the opportunity and to play a part.
We sell a lot of things on Gumtree and every ad explains where the money is going. Lots of people will round the cost of the item up, or give an extra $20.
The whole family is involved. My husband is a big supporter – he’s often driving around picking up free items I’ve found on Gumtree and I like to think my boys are a little bit aware now, as well, which is good for them, I think.
For the first few months, I was very busy and the thinking time is endless. I’m always trying to come up with new ideas. But when it’s something you feel strongly about, it’s a pleasure.
Trish spoke to Kate
Check out the Gertie and Ruth website.
Gertie and Ruth Gumtree listings.