Orange's Local Woman of the Year started a welfare group in her own garage

PROUD MOMENT: Orange's 2017 Local Woman of the Year Karlie Irwin with local member Phil Donato. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

PROUD MOMENT: Orange's 2017 Local Woman of the Year Karlie Irwin with local member Phil Donato. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

Most people fill their garage with a car, tools, junk and more.

Karlie Irwin filled hers with a social care network that has helped around 4000 needy Orange families in the past 15 months.

Mrs Irwin’s compassion and caring in setting up the Pay It Forward community help group in Orange were deservedly rewarded last Friday when she was named the Orange Local Woman of the Year for 2017.

Next stop is the NSW Women of the Year finalists’ ceremony in Sydney in March.

The delighted mother of four revealed how she started the charity in her own garage in November 2015 after a career in social work.

“Certainly it wasn’t my intention to turn my garage into a community facility,” she said.

But, that’s what happened when she needed somewhere to store and manage goods, food and clothing to distribute to needy families.

Mrs Irwin said the charity had now expanded beyond her garage to a community shed in Glenroi Avenue and would soon be opening a community crisis accommodation centre in Peisley Street.

She said families needing food, clothing and household items plus services including work around the home were referred to her charity.

Mrs Irwin and her team of 25 volunteers then deliver the goods and provide the services.

They have provided complete furniture packages to needy people move into a new home and workers to mow grass to help some people avoid being evicted from rental accommodation.

She said they had helped around 4000 families in Orange.

“I’m all about community. It is an open access service.”

Mrs Irwin said she was delighted to receive the award.

“It’s all a bit overwhelming. I’m really humbled. I’m really quite a quiet person so I am really humbled.”

She also thanked her staff for their contributions.

“They give their time, they come every day. I can’t thank the team enough.”

Her award was presented by local member Phil Donato at the CWA hall in Robertson Park.

Mr Donato said the charity was vital to Orange in distributing donated goods to people in need including daily supplies of fresh bread.

“It’s a tremendous support that you provide,” he said.

“It’s great that somebody like you is able to provide that assistance.”

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