By Alesha Capone
When Isabelle Ruby Leha created a social media group to help people during the grocery panic-buying which occurred earlier this year, little did she know it would go viral and reach thousands in the community.
Ms Leha, of Wyndham Vale, said that on March 13, she made a Facebook post wishing for a “Pandemic of Kindness” after witnessing the panic-buying at supermarkets, which left many people without staple food items.
She started the Grocery Swap Melbourne Facebook on March 15, with the idea of assisting people who had excess amounts of groceries to donate what they could spare to others in need, and also list businesses with food available at reasonable prices.
“The group started off with only myself, a few friends and family members and a handful of local residents,” Ms Leha said.
“It quickly grew within a few hours of launching and went viral overnight, accumulating hundreds and then thousands of amazingly generous members who have helped it grow to over 7200 members and counting.”
“It has been a truly humbling and rewarding experience watching the group grow, but even more so to witness so many diverse Melburnians join the movement and want to help anyone and everyone in need, especially during such uncertain and scary times,” she said.
Ms Leha, a social work student at Deakin University, as well a counsellor and case manager at Forever Friends Animal Rescue, said as a result of the grocery swap, she had been able to help a number of homeless people and women escaping family violence, who needed food and toys for their children.
She said one woman had responded with a written message, which read: “I was escaping domestic violence with my three children and this group was amazing for me.
“I’ve had to start from scratch but without this group we would have been much worse off!!
“This is an amazing group with beautiful people.”
Ms Leha said she wanted to thank her parents Tracey and Jeffrey Gould, and friend Jennifer Matthewman, who have helped to run the group.
She described the members of the Grocery Swap Melbourne as the “true heroes” in her eyes.
“It has been a true work of heart and I cannot be prouder of my city for the way they have come together to help others during these trying times,” she said.
“Grocery Swap is now in a number of states around Australia, but Melbourne is by far the biggest and most generous.”