Kitchen volunteers, donors and patrons joined with CatholicCare staff and the Federal Member for Lyne, the Hon Dr David Gillespie MP, to mark the auspicious occasion.
The Director of CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning, Gary Christensen, is particularly buoyed by the milestone.
“These celebrations have been 3.5 years in the making and are a testament to the selfless support of volunteers, and generous donations from local businesses that have partnered with CatholicCare to deliver this essential community service,” Mr Christensen said.
The celebration was turbo-charged when Dr Gillespie announced that CatholicCare was successful in its bid for funding, through the Federal Government’s Volunteer Grants Program.
“I’m proud to support the Taree Community Kitchen through the Volunteer Grants Program. I was here when CatholicCare opened the Kitchen and now 20,000 meals have been served, which is no easy feat. I’d like to thank all the volunteers who turn up and cook and serve for free, as well as the Kitchen sponsors and donors, who give their business or hard- earned cash to make this work for people who are vulnerable and need support,” Dr Gillespie said.
CatholicCare assumed operations of the Taree Community Kitchen in 2015 with a desire to assist individuals, couples and families experiencing adversity. The Kitchen continues to grow in popularity, with volunteers now serving between 30-50 patrons each weekday. The increasing demands on the service, while welcome, have placed a strain on existing resources.
Mr Christensen said that after consulting with Kitchen volunteers, CatholicCare applied for $4,250 in funding through the grants program to sustain their operations. The program provides small amounts of money to not-for-profit organisations to support volunteers who encourage the inclusion of vulnerable people in community life.
“In line with recommendations from our volunteers, CatholicCare requested backing to purchase an industrial freezer, which will enable them to preserve donated produce and new tables and chairs, for the comfort of patrons,” Mr Christensen said.
In addition to the valued contributions made by volunteers and business donors, since opening its doors, the Taree Community Kitchen has also benefited from engagement with community organisations, local schools, media partners and all levels of government.
“We believe that communities are stronger when they come together to support each other during the difficult times and it is this ethos that underpins the good work of the Taree Community Kitchen,” Mr Christensen said.
The Taree Community Kitchen operates from Victoria Street, overlooking Fotheringham Park. The service currently serves lunch Monday to Friday from noon to 1 pm.
Mr Christensen said CatholicCare has its sights on expanding the Kitchen’s operations to include weekend service.
“We’d love to hear from locals who can either volunteer their time, or goods from their business, to help us achieve this goal!” Mr Christensen said.
To find out more about the Taree Community Kitchen, or to volunteer or donate visit www.catholiccare.org.au or drop-in to the Taree Community Kitchen.