New expanded services, exciting additions and projects are underway at Port Anglican Soup Kitchen. Karen Richards kindly provided us with some of the updates and details about what it takes to be a volunteer.
Services such as the Port Anglican Soup Kitchen are essential in any community.
Not everyone is homeless, but many are at risk of becoming homeless. They may be living hand-to-mouth, have mental health issues and/or drug and alcohol dependencies. Others are disadvantaged due to factors relating to their physical health, domestic violence or challenges they face in maintaining relationships or holding a job.
The doors at Port Anglican Soup Kitchen are open to anyone who needs a filling and nutritious meal and just as importantly, they provide social support with a venue for many to meet and socialise. It’s a place where friendships form, and some of their regulars now look out for others who may be more vulnerable.
Operated wholly by volunteers, the kitchen has been going for more than 20 years. Currently, they serve a three-course meal to between 60 and 80 people nearly every Wednesday, with surplus bread, rolls, fruit and veg available to take away by anyone who needs it.
Karen Richards has been at the soup kitchen for over five years and says:
“I enjoy being part of a team of people who have made a decision that although they can’t fix all the problems in the world, by simply helping out for a few hours each week they can contribute to improving someone’s day.
“It is an ongoing reminder that whatever frustration you might be dealing with in your own life, it rarely compares to what you see others going through who haven’t been as lucky. As a volunteer, you are fulfilling a need that sadly exists, but while you are giving you gain a lot more back in terms of satisfaction and seeing a different perspective.”
The volunteers prepare food, cook, set up the room, serve the food, clean up, wash up, as well as chat with and show interest in the daily lives of the Port Anglican Soup Kitchen patrons. Port Anglican Soup Kitchen provides donated canned food to those who need it/can use it. Every year there’s a great turnout for the annual festive Christmas lunch with plenty of trimmings.
Services such as Port Anglican Soup Kitchen play an important role in reducing food wastage. They could not do what they do without the businesses and organisations that provide support. The Soup Kitchen receives regular donated produce from many generous businesses, and they have a strong relationship with OzHarvest, who pick up and deliver the produce. Much of this comes from Coles Supermarkets via their Second Bite initiative.
Green waste is also donated to some very grateful pigs, who look forward to it every week.
Volunteers also come in the form of local businesses.
“Botanic Wine Garden took over the kitchen recently and cooked some of their seriously good signature dishes using a combination of our regular donated produce, plus meat and vegetables donated by some very generous local businesses (Hastings Fresh Meats and Ken Little’s Fruit & Veg). The hall was decorated in the theme of the restaurant, and we were touched by how many people at lunch told us how much they enjoyed it and what a special occasion it was for them. In our eyes, it helps towards creating more equality in the community and illustrates the fantastic community spirit we have here in Port, with local businesses willing to lend a hand or donate to the cause, “ says Karen.
Students from St Columba and Newman Technical College regularly help out as part of programs developed by them, and the apprentice chefs from ETC can often be found in the kitchen doing work experience.
Local restaurants and cafés are invited to come along and cook occasionally, or maybe send someone in to take on the challenge of cooking with the donated produce.
Volunteer initiatives that could enhance the services provided, such as counselling, physiotherapy, legal are also sought, and expressions of interest can be directed to the contacts at the end of this story.
“We’re looking for volunteers who bring enthusiasm, flexibility, compassion for others’ situations – those who are non-judgemental and treat everyone with respect.
“If it needs to be done, then they are happy to do it, and they’ll need to enjoy being part of a team. They need to be happy to enjoy a chat or a laugh with both those who come for lunch and the other volunteers.
“We welcome all volunteers, as everyone brings different skills and strengths, but we especially need the help of another chef or confident home cook,” adds Karen.
The new Vicar, Stuart Webb and his team at Port Anglican (St Thomas) including Chaplain Ross Duncan are very proactive and keen to find ways to support our community further by encouraging the Soup Kitchen volunteers to consider and implement new initiatives.
The Orange Sky Laundry mobile laundry service is available and is staffed by volunteers, who park at the Soup Kitchen every Wednesday. The volunteers wash and dry laundry for anyone who needs it. Orange Sky Laundry are hoping to introduce mobile showers in the future.
Another great initiative that is launching is the partnership with Community Hair Project. They are organising free haircuts events for those in need. Community Hair Project engages with local hairdressers and barbers, who volunteer their time and skills. It will be run every three or four months, with the first one on November 21st, in conjunction with the Wednesday lunch.
All locals are welcome to dine at the Soup Kitchen. For those who wish to donate for their lunch, to help support the organisation – such as business groups for meetings – you are welcome too! The Soup Kitchen’s door is open to all …
You can get in touch with the Soup Kitchen by messaging them on Facebook or Instagram – search Port Anglican Soup Kitchen, call or leave a message Tuesday – Friday mornings at the Port Anglican office (or come by any Wednesday morning to check them out).
Port Anglican Soup Kitchen – St Thomas’ Hall, 50 Hay St, Port Macquarie. Tel: 6584 1033.