Founder of Vinnies CEO Sleepout inspires community participation

By Jordan Grantham, 2 August 2018
Susan Goldie (EO - Retail Strategy, Vinnies), Anne Stanfield (SVdP Society Central Council President), Bernie Fehon (CEO Sleepout Founder) and Simon Barrie (Pro-Vice Chancellor, Western Sydney University). Photo: Diocese of Parramatta / Jordan Grantham


The founder of the Vinnies CEO Sleepout has a new opportunity for all members of the community to raise awareness and money for people suffering from homelessness.

This year’s CEO Sleepout raised over $6 million in one night, with hundreds of CEOs sleeping rough around Australia.

It all started in 2006 with Bernie Fehon’s vision at a meeting in Merrylands to plan a business community fundraiser, while his daughter was doing a sleepout for the homeless at St Columba’s College, Springwood.

“So sleepouts themselves are not new but really the only innovation is that targeting CEOs,” Bernie said.

Now Bernie wants to build on the growing desire of all members of the community to participate, with the new Vinnies Western Sydney Community Sleepout.

The Harris Park Community Hub hosted the launch and over 100 individuals and groups have responded to sleep out.

Deacon Tony Hoban and Mrs Annette Hoban of St Luke’s Catholic Faith Community, Marsden Park are some of those participants.

“I have decided to make a difference by getting involved in the Vinnies Community Sleepout to help prevent homelessness in Western Sydney,” Deacon Tony said. Donations to Deacon Tony’s fundraising effort can be made here.

Bernie Fehon (Vinnies CEO Sleepout Founder), Anne Stanfield (SVdP Society Central Council, Simon Barrie (Pro-Vice Chancellor, Western Sydney University) and Susan Goldie (EO – Retail Strategy, Vinnies). Photo: Diocese of Parramatta / Jordan Grantham

Susan Goldie, Executive Officer of Retail Strategy, St Vincent de Paul spoke at the launch and is putting her words into action, sleeping out on August 30.

“Vinnies across New South Wales is tackling homelessness directly,” Susan said.

Vinnies operates many services to prevent and resolve homelessness, such as domestic violence refuges, hostels, soup vans, family services, accommodation for people with a mental illness, referral services and education facilities.

Susan thanked the sponsors of the event, including Grace Removals, who will provide the cardboard boxes and Rapid Relief Team, an emergency response catering charity, who will provide soup on the night.

Western Sydney University is another sponsor and is hosting the sleep out at their historic Parramatta South Campus, just north of the Parramatta River.

Simon Barrie, Pro-Vice Chancellor spoke about the impact he hopes the event can have and university’s ethos of partnering with Western Sydney, the community and students.

“Western Sydney, I think in the last ten years, has dramatically changed. It’s reinvented itself.”

He made the connection between Western Sydney’s continued growth and increasing levels of tertiary education and the need to educate in a way that will grow the job population in Western Sydney.

A member of the community who came to Vinnies in crisis spoke eloquently about the change Vinnies homelessness service made to her life.

Anne Stanfield, Central Council President of the St Vincent de Paul Society, thanked the community member for sharing a powerful testimony of overcoming homelessness.

“I’ve been a member of the society for over 25 years and my Vincentian life actually started here at Harris Park,” she said.

Harris Park’s a great place to be launching the Vinnies Western Sydney Community Sleepout, Anne said.

Community members can host, volunteer and donate to the Vinnies Community Sleepout by clicking here.

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