Padthaway local Nathan McCarthy is continuing a family tradition of compassion by leading 800 fellow students in a campaign to "lighten the load" for disadvantaged South Australians.
As Social Justice Prefect for his boarding school, Rostrevor College, Nathan is spearheading a four-week donation drive for Vinnies SA which is urging families to donate surplus, high-quality clothing, toys and homewares for the needy.
The 17 year old is following in the footsteps of his Bordertown grandparents, Margaret and Desmond McCarthy, who were active charity workers for St Vincent De Paul Society for many years, supplying clothes, furniture and homewares from a large shed near the Bordertown railway line.
As a young boy, Nathan would regularly pass Naracoorte's Vinnies SA store on Smith St when accompanying his father Simon to the livestock saleyards.
"A lot of people wouldn't even know the shop is there, but it does a lot to help people behind the scenes and there are more problems out there than people realise," Nathan said.
More than $2.6 million in donations and sales from Vinnies SA stores is distributed State-wide to those in greatest need.
Last year, the St Vincent De Paul Society, which has branches in Naracoorte, Bordertown, Millicent and Mt Gambier, conducted almost 900 home visits to South East families and provided more than $108,000 in direct support in the form of food, clothing, Manchester, furniture and bill payments.
Now aged 86, Margaret McCarthy said she was proud to see her grandson putting his charitable nature into action.
"For many years, people who were struggling - particularly those who were new to Bordertown - would come to us and we would help them with furniture and other things," she said.
Nathan said his family had taught him not to be the person who talked about society's problems but to be the person who tried to improve things.
"Rostrevor College also has a strong 'men for others' ethos and we are encouraged to put our words into action so, when the opportunity came up to support Vinnies SA, we jumped at it," he said.
"Being teenagers, we tend to have a lot of stuff we don't need. By donating clothing and other items, they will hopefully get a new life and help support those who are doing it tough."
The College's Social Justice Group has set up collection points around the campus and has developed flyers and a social media campaign urging donations throughout the four-week Lighten the Load program.
Vinnies SA's Schools and Community Engagement Coordinator, Jayne Shortt, said in addition to receiving valuable donations, the Lighten the Load initiative encouraged students to think about the impacts of poverty and disadvantage.
"It is really pleasing to see young people like Nathan and his peers showing compassion and taking action to support those less fortunate than themselves," Ms Shortt said.
Both Vinnies and Rostrevor College have emphasised the need for high-quality clothing, blankets and homewares.
"A general rule of thumb is that if you'd give it to a friend, then it's ok to give to Vinnies," Ms Shortt said.
The Vincent De Paul at Naracoorte is on the lookout for more volunteers. If you're interested in being involved, call (08) 8762 3314. They are also open on Tuesdays (9am - 1.30pm), Thursdays (9am - 1.30pm) and Saturdays (9am - 11.30am).