Volunteers keep social obligations on the boil

When Pope Francis gave his extraordinary blessing to the world on 27 March, he recognised the essential workers who continue to serve and give hope to others in a time of uncertainty and need.

On the eve of National Volunteer Week (Monday 18 May – Sunday 24 May), two agencies of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle have demonstrated the Pope’s call to care for others and are calling for volunteers to join them and make a difference in this time. 

Food is essential, and the Development and Relief Agency (DARA), and Taree Community Kitchen, have adapted to continue their services and meet the needs of people while the community is in lockdown due to COVID-19.

DARA food programs co-ordinator Baden Ellis is organising home-delivered meals to those in need, saying “it’s our social justice obligation to keep things running”.

“Home deliveries are a way to keep social distancing and ensure our friends at home don’t have to travel,” Mr Ellis said.

Each week, volunteers will deliver food to people in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland and Port Stephens.

 “Anyone is welcome to get a meal, regardless of the reasons why,” Mr Ellis said. “If they are recently out of a job, are homeless, or just can't make ends meet, everyone is welcome.”

Anyone can call 4979 1339, or fill in a form online at http://dara.org.au/home-delivery/ to receive a delivery.

“At a very minimum they'll get one ready-made meal, which they can reheat themselves,” Mr Ellis said. “But if they don't have access to an oven or microwave, then we can organise a hot meal for them.”

Meals are being prepared with the help of chefs who have been stood down due to businesses temporarily closing. Anthony Rouse, chef at Belmont 16 Footers, was the first to jump in and help cook 500 meals of curry beef, bolognaise, rissoles and beef braise.

“We have a number of chefs in a similar situation who have put up their hand to volunteer,” Mr Ellis said.

Volunteer Shaun Serafin delivered the first lot of meals just before Easter and said everyone he visited was so grateful that someone had gone out of their way to help them.

“It was good to have a brief chat,” he said, “and for me in the current environment, it was so important to get out and know that you have done something good for others.”

Essential food is also being provided in the north of our Diocese.

The Taree Community Kitchen supports vulnerable people in the Manning, serving meals from 12pm until 1pm Mondays to Fridays.

It has adapted the way it provides meals, serving only takeaways with two diners at a time collecting their meals. Diners sanitize their hands when they enter, and cleaning occurs frequently.

Bread and any extra fresh food is also shared with diners when they come in.

Co-ordinator Sue Abdoo says due to many current volunteers being in the “at risk” category, the kitchen is in need of more volunteers. Volunteer numbers are only at 20 per cent of their usual attendees, while diner numbers have been consistent. “We need the help of the community to keep our doors open during the COVID-19 crisis,” Ms Abdoo said.

If you are looking for ways to support your local community during this pandemic, and you do not identify as being in any of the “at risk” categories for COVID 19 flagged by health authorities, then the Taree Community Kitchen needs your help.

“There are many ways people can get involved,” Ms Abdoo said, “including the collection of food donations from local businesses, assisting with the preparation of the daily meal, making up fruit and  vegie packs for our diners, cleaning, serving meals and greeting the people we support with a smile.”

Call 6539 5900 to volunteer with Taree Community Kitchen, or if you would like to help with DARA’s cooking or deliveries, please call 49791339.

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Brooke Robinson Image
Brooke Robinson

Brooke is Content Officer for the Communications Team in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle