Christine Mastello a finalist in 2019 AusMumpreneur awards

CHANGING LIVES: Christine Mastello stocking the shelves at the Southlake Marketplace in Cooranbong which offers free and low-cost food to the needy.

CHANGING LIVES: Christine Mastello stocking the shelves at the Southlake Marketplace in Cooranbong which offers free and low-cost food to the needy.

A LAKE Macquarie woman who has founded more than 15 groups that help to connect people with the resources and services they need is in contention for a national award.

Christine Mastello, who founded the Southlake Marketplace, at Cooranbong, has been named a finalist in the 2019 AusMumpreneur awards.

She's been nominated in the 'Women Will Change the World' category.

The award recognises women who are making a difference to people's lives, the environment, or the world through their business or their non-profit organisation.

Southlake Marketplace offers low-cost and free food to people who are doing it tough - including some who are homeless. It has since expanded to Gwandalan and Lake Munmorah.

It is open to Centrelink recipients and those earning less than $45,000 a year.

"People come in and for a minimum spend of $5 they can take as much bread as they need, as well as a bag of fruit and vegetables," Ms Mastello said.

Every Christmas, Southlake Marketplace donates more than 300 hampers to local families in need.

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In February, Ms Mastello also launched a weekly food bank at Wangi Wangi RSL Club.

The service offers bags of pantry staples, bread and fruit for $9, as well as free emergency food parcels.

Her Community Hair Project, meanwhile, is a mobile service providing free haircuts to people in need.

Ms Mastello has partnered with hairdressers and barbers who volunteer their time to operate the service at 47 sites throughout NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.

A spokesperson for the AusMumpreneur awards said Ms Mastello's contribution had been significant.

"As the founder of Southlake Marketplace and Community Hair Project, Christine has changed thousands of Australians lives," the spokesperson said.

On Tuesday, Ms Mastello said she was both embarrassed and humbled to be named a finalist.

"To me, this is 10 per cent about me and 90 per cent about the wonderful hairdressers and barbers who go without a fee to make the Community Hair Project work," she said.

Ms Mastello said she started her charitable work at age 13, and had since founded 15 organisations and services for the needy.

"People ask my why I do it, and they expect some complicated answer. But truly, it's just my heart. I get so much from knowing I can help someone in need - even if it's just a little bit," she said.

Winners will be announced in September.

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