The Taree Community Kitchen had been operating for 30 years before CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning proudly took over management in December 2015.
With a $30,000 donation from the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation, the support of numerous local sponsors and a dedicated team of volunteers, the Kitchen continued to make a real difference, providing assistance to vulnerable members of the community during 2016.
The Kitchen opens its doors to the public five days a week. It is a space where people can feel safe, enjoy the company of others and have access to other relevant services via information and referral.
The Taree Community Kitchen has over 35 volunteers all of whom enrich the quality of life for the people who visit the Kitchen and their families. The volunteers’ lives are, in turn, enriched by their experiences.
Zoe Geraki, who has been volunteering at the Kitchen since February, thoroughly enjoys her time spent helping others through the program.
“I love the way that the community has got together behind this project. Some donate their time, others their service and of course many generously gift food and produce.
“It’s great to be part of a team and to get things done for a common good. To see the patrons enjoying the space socially is a great feeling. As volunteers, we feel rewarded just knowing that our efforts are appreciated,” said Zoe.
Ruth Sumpner, another volunteer who has been with the Kitchen since the beginning of the year, echoes Zoe’s sentiments.
“I have found volunteering to be an immensely enjoyable and fulfilling experience. When you are in the kitchen, it’s like you are there with extended family. It’s a welcoming, friendly and relaxed atmosphere. We help anyone.
“As a volunteer you get so much more out of the experience than you ever give. It is truly heartwarming to see the smiles on people’s faces when you serve them; the human connection brings so much happiness,” said Ruth.
Zoe concurs, describing a typical day in the Kitchen.
“As we work in the Kitchen preparing the food and talking we bond and connect with each other. We joke, we laugh and we welcome people with a smile. We love to chat with the people who utilise the service.
“There is a strong need for this service in our community and the success of the Kitchen is a testament to what can be done when we put our minds together as a community. CatholicCare, small businesses, schools and individuals have come together to address this need,” said Zoe.