Orange Sky’s Co-Founder, Lucas looks back on the past 12 months since the beginning of the pandemic – a time in our history that we’ll never forget.

There have been many days in this crazy Orange Sky journey that I will remember forever; some the happiest and others the most challenging of my life. Monday, March 23 is one of the latter.

That was the day we pressed pause on all of our metro and regional services across Australia and New Zealand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It almost felt surreal; five and a half years of building relationships and trust with our friends was seemingly undone by an invisible enemy in just a few short weeks.

Letting people down is something that Nic and I have always taken incredibly seriously. It’s what drove us to get our first ever laundry van, Sudsy up and running in just three days. It took two failed attempts before we were able to support our very first friend, Jordan.

(You can learn more about Jordan’s story here)

That same fear of letting people down has also fuelled our recovery in a COVID-19 world.

It’s hard to grapple with the idea of friends not being able to bring their washing to shift, volunteers not having a way to give their time, and supporters not being able to see their impact in the community. The second we paused shifts, we knew we needed to innovate and find ways to help our friends.

One year on, our service might not look the same as it did pre-COVID, but that unwavering commitment to support our community remains unchanged. From that very first shift back just two weeks after pausing our services, we’re now operating more than 200 shifts a week across Australia.

A few weeks ago, I was on shift in St Kilda, Melbourne – my first interstate visit since before the pandemic. As the sun set over St Kilda beach, I watched as our mission to positively connect communities was brought to life through many showers and loads of washing, conversations on our six orange chairs, and connection with our service provider partners. March 23 will go down as one of the toughest days in our history, but it’s moments like this on shift when I’m reminded of exactly why Orange Sky exists.

Everyone has their own story and experience of what the past 12 months have been like, and I wanted to share some of those with you today from our HQ team.

“Working in the not-for-profit space for the past 10 years and volunteering well beyond that, I have never experienced a year quite like the one we’ve just had. It’s amazing to think that 12 months ago to the day, we made the difficult decision to turn off the Orange Sky engines. In hindsight, that was the easy part. Getting the washing spinning once again was a challenge, and we couldn’t have done it without our many partners and dedicated volunteers. Words such as positivity, energy and resilience describe the approach led by our HQ and volunteer teams and I am so proud for us to come out the other end a much stronger organisation.” – Dan, Program Manager (Friends and Volunteers)

“I’ve never been challenged more than I have in the past 12 months. It’s been a year since I’ve left Perth, and I usually travel quite a lot, so it’s been interesting in that respect. In the community impact space, as horrible as the past year has been for so many, it’s been an interesting time as we’ve made a lot of new relationships that have resulted in better collaborations and shift locations.” – Lisa (Program Manager, Community Impact)

“2020 was by all accounts, a very different year for many people mostly due to the pandemic. While our metro and regional services were affected by restrictions, our remote services were able to continue operating right throughout the year. Thankfully, our three communities remained COVID-free and our employees were able to continue operating laundry shifts and supporting the local community with very important social connection.” – Judith, Program Manager (Remote and Indigenous Services)

“When COVID-19 first hit our shores, we were very uncertain about the impact the pandemic would have on our ability to raise the funds required to keep our vans on the road and supporting our friends. Our incredible donors, and corporate and philanthropic partners responded so generously, with many reaching out to us to offer assistance. It’s thanks to our community that we were able to get back out on the road so quickly to support our friends doing it tough.” –  Michaela, Grants and Individual Giving Manager