Linen Project


Chris Herrmann in Borderless Friendship house in Northern Thailand meeting with orphans on sheets from the ‘Linen project”

Most people go north in Perth’s winter to catch a few fish and experience the great outdoors. Chris Herrmann, member of the Rotary Club of Mill Point in Perth, did all that as he holidayed up north visting family. But what his fellow members didn’t realise as they farewelled him on his travels, was the avalanche he was about to create.

Whilst staying in one of the iron ore mining towns in the middle of Western Australia’s Pilbara region, Mr Herrmann got a tip off that a batch of bed linen had become surplus to needs. With worst fears of this ending in the local tip, a couple emails were  sent to members of the club down south to see if they felt there was a need through their affiliation with multiple charities. Within an hour, emails and text messages were coming back listing a range of charities in need.

Given the confirmed demand, Mr Herrmann set off on a mission to track the source. “Wastage is a huge problem” was a common response from everyone from the local tip operator to mining employees and contractors. Things didn’t expect to move this quickly as he met with Rio Tinto the next day to view nine pallets of the surplus bed linen.

“I would have been just another voice up here bemoaning the possibility of more wastage if it wasn’t for the enthusiasm and professionalism of the Rotary Club of Mill Point members to make it all happen”, Mr Herrmann said.

And happen it did.

“Should be arriving tomorrow”, Mr Herrmann advised club member Gerry McGann as the new hastily appointed role of Bed Linen Project Coordinator. Frantic phone calls to anyone who might own a vacant warehouse finally beared fruit.  Riccardo Letari of Toscana (makers of the best olive oil in Australia!) provided a warehouse for a few weeks. Meanwhile with the generous support of Centurion, the bed linen was heading 1600km south to Perth.

Club members set about doing an inventory, then sorted and distributed to 8 different charities for Perth, East Timor, Thailand and Laos. All up over 2000 bed sheets and other linen, much of it looking as though it had barely been used.

But the avalanche of linen was yet to happen. Things were just getting started.

“I have another 40 pallets of linen. This lot’s from Fortescue Metals Group”, Mr Herrmann soon after advised Mr McGann. “You must have heard wrong”, Mr McGann exclaimed. Given the mobile reception at the time, they both accepted it was more likely 14 pallets.

But indeed it was 40. But that grew to 47 pallets. The panic set in to find an even bigger warehouse. This was kindly provided by Rapallo.  “It was a daunting sight” Mr McGann commented as this huge Toll truck arrived to off load the consignment comprising over 10,500 linen items from bathmats to doonas. All up with a replacement value of over $100,000.

As a result of large mining camps service contract changes, and through the generosity and assistance of Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals Group, Centurion Transport and Toll Transport, over twenty different charities have benefited with over ten and half thousand items of linen.

But it still doesn’t end there though.

‘Gerry’s Shop’ as it became affectionately known, was about to take a spring break. “But Gerry, I just received word we have another possible 50 pallets of linen coming in the next week or so”, Mr Herrmann explained. Subject to identifying further demand in WA, arrangements are also being made to set up another ‘Gerry’s Shop’ equivalent in one of the eastern states for this next batch.

This rapidly formed project is a great example of Rotary working to improve the quality of life for people in our communities. Seizing an opportunity, using its networks, business like professionalism, and above all the enthusiasm of members to make it happen.

“But just seeing the smile on so many faces of the receiving charities, has made this project so worthwhile”, Mr McGann explained on behalf of his voluntary team.

Contact: Gerry McGann, Project Coordinator. Rotary Club of Mill Point,