Each year, over 60 students choose to step outside their comfort zone to help prepare and serve meals to people within the local community.
CatholicCare initiated the program to provide assistance to vulnerable members of the Taree and Manning community and have created a space where people can feel safe and enjoy the company of others.
As a non-government funded program, the Kitchen relies primarily on the generosity of the Taree community, volunteers and donors to provide this invaluable service.
The Community Kitchen serves meals five days a week, handing out around 21 meals each day thanks to the donated produce they receive.
“There has never been a time when we have had to ask our students for more volunteers,” said Denise Ryan, Ministry Coordinator at St Clare’s.
“Our students willingly volunteer their time and keep asking if they can help out another day.”
At least five students and two teachers volunteer once a month and work together to serve meals for two and a half hours.
“The Community Kitchen allows St Clare’s to give something back to the community and especially, live the Gospel,” said Denise.
“It allows us to put the talk into action and, in a small way, do what Jesus calls us to as Christians. Our work takes us out of our comfort zones, certainly, but takes us into an area where our focus is ‘others’.
“We move from that self-centre to other-centred."
Volunteering at the Kitchen is fundamentally important for students’ mental health and develops their social conscience and their responsibility to treat others with dignity and compassion.
“They learn that it is easy to judge someone from outward appearances and attitudes but is not an accurate view of the ‘other’, either in the Kitchen or the classroom.
“The ultimate goal would be that this becomes a part of their consciousness and that, when they’re older, volunteering in this way is a real option for them.”
Year 10 student WenYuan LimSchneider said, "It was really fun and rewarding to serve the food you helped prepare to those less fortunate, it was a bit like running your own restaurant!"
To register your interest in becoming a volunteer or donor to the Taree Community Kitchen please contact CatholicCare on (02) 6539 5900 or head to their website to find out more.