Pensioner Joe enjoys a hot meal

One of the most rewarding aspects of working at FareShare is meeting the people who receive our meals and the charities which support them.

“We see a lot of domestic violence, single mums, and retirees who don’t have the funds to feed themselves,” says Helping Hands CEO Melanie Kent. “It doesn’t take much to be living comfortably in a house to having nothing.

“We support a lot of isolated people who have no one. We give them a safe place. We’re like a pseudo family.”

Helping Hands Mission runs community pantries in Airport West, Sunshine and Bridgewater near Bendigo and provides emergency support for Victorians in extreme circumstances. It also serves daily sit-down meals for at least 40 vulnerable people, including small children, at Airport West

The community pantry is stocked with fresh food and staples, together with our nutritious frozen meals. It supports 30 families a day by appointment and many more who walk in in desperate need of food. Some are sleeping rough or in cars so unable to take much away with them.

“It’s a space for people to come and take what’s most useful to them. When your choices have been taken away from you, it makes a world of difference to be able to choose the brands your kids like,” explains Melanie.

FareShare pork and chicken is on the menu at the community meal where a very relaxed setting dissolves any distinction between staff, volunteers and the local community members who come in for a meal and good company.

“It’s often the only meal of the day for people,” says Melanie. “Sometimes we run out and have to quickly defrost some FareShare meals and serve a second round.”

Joe, 93, who lives alone is one of today’s diners. He appreciates a hot meal here once a week but says Helping Hands means more than that to him. “Just being here is enough,” he says.

The charity also provides vital social inclusion for its assisted volunteers. Each week it provides one on one support for 13 people from teenagers to the frail and elderly.

Kelly Pudge manages the program which gives people with special needs a role. It might be sorting eggs, packing food, or helping to organise the treasure trove of incoming donations for Helping Hands’ seven opportunity stores.

“It can make a huge change in someone’s life,” says Kelly. “It gives people a story to tell when they get home. ‘When I was at work today…’ They have a conversation point. They are contributing.”

Helping Hands aims to raise the money it needs from a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of donated goods. These are sold in op shops but also provided free for people in emergency situations.

According to Melanie, 1280 calls for help were made in the lead up to ChristmasSome callers found themselves destitute after a family violence situation.

“We can help people who have lost everything get restarted with an oven,  fridge, washing machine, linen, clothes, crockery and of course food.”

Helping Hands really lives up to its name.  And FareShare is very happy to play our part with nutritious meals and rescued food.