BFFS started as a grassroots volunteer-led community organisation established by Jenny Elvey – BFFS’ current General Manager.
One night in 2006, over a dining room table, Jenny and two other like-minded community service workers put in a few dollars each to register the agency.
Jenny envisioned creating an organisation to offer holistic programs and services to address financial hardship and distress as well as the consequent social isolation experienced by the most vulnerable communities in the Bendigo region.
Over the next 18 months, Jenny and others fundraised by organising sausage sizzles. This allowed BFFS to rent its first office space located in St Andrews Avenue Bendigo, where during the early years, the agency delivered services solely based on generous professional volunteer labour. BFFS has grown from this determined and passionate beginning into the agency it is today.
BFFS overcame many inevitable hurdles in the early days, but through persistence and a focus on building collaborative relationships, BFFS worked with community peak body organisations to clearly identify the need for microfinance, financial counselling and emergency relief support programs for the region. BFFS identified the need for clients to have this holistic financial support that considered all aspects of a person needs across the social determinants of health.
BFFS was successful in their advocacy and began offering financial counselling in 2007 and the following year, established the No Interest Loan Scheme (NILs) program for the Bendigo region. Over the years, the NILS program has grown into a national program servicing people in need across the country. Our success was recognised by Good Shepherd Microfinance noting that we provided the greatest number of loans in Victoria during 2014, 2015, 2016. From 2006 we have grown our loan capital from $20,000 to $1.25 million and continue to grow our staffing and program through identified community needs.
Today we operate as a one-stop community hub with a focus on financial wellness that provides integrated support and referrals based on the client’s needs. We are proud to take a person-centred approach to all our work. Our point of difference is we work with our clients to address their immediate and future needs. We holistically work with clients by providing tailored approaches to support the client on their journey to achieve positive outcomes. We don’t turn anyone away or leave anyone behind, and work with individuals and families until they achieve their goals.
Our Shepparton office
In early 2019 Bendigo Family and Financial Services was approached by Community Information and Support Victoria (CISVic) to explore opportunities to deliver much-needed services in the Greater Shepparton region. A few months later Shepparton Family and Financial Services (SFFS) was born. This service operates under the same core principles that BFFS was founded on. SFFS provide emergency food relief, No interest loans (NILs) and Financial Counselling to the Greater Shepparton area and are planning to grow its suite of services in the future.
Top: The team in the beginning at the St Andrews Avenue office.
Middle: BFFS’ Myers Street office until the move to the bigger Rowan Street premises in December 2020.
Bottom: The BFFS team in the early days at the Myers Street office.