The FoodHut: A place of Value and Belonging

24 Sep 2018

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When Wally arrived at the NationsHeart FoodHut – he was simply looking for help. Recently retired from truck driving, he was facing the challenge of juggling the needs of his family on a limited income.

“I heard about a place you could go and get help with food, so I thought I’d go along and check it out.”

It wasn’t long before Wally started helping by unpacking the pallet of deliveries on a Wednesday and then volunteering to help shoppers on Fridays.

He also noticed other things around the church that needed doing. He spoke to Janet McKinney who was the Community Coordinator at the time – and offered to help out.  So, began a pattern of him taking on odd jobs here and there.

“It helped me find purpose in the day to be able to use some practical skills to help others out.”

His help meant the grounds and the building were receiving much needed care, and it wasn’t too long before he was asked to be the official care taker.

“It meant a lot to me to have a role to play,” he said. “It gave me a reason to get out of bed every day, and it was good to see things taking shape and be part of the team welcoming and caring for people who come.”

Wally also continued to offer his help in the FoodHut – which is like a mini-market of food and other grocery items available to the wider community. The goods come through partnerships with FoodBank NSW, OzHarvest and Communities at Work. The fresh produce is passed on free of charge, while there’s a small handling fee for the goods that have been transported from Sydney.

“It was good to be able to give back to a ministry that had helped me and many others.”

When long serving manager Richard Swann retired, Wally was ready to step up and try his hand at overseeing the FoodHut. Appointed alongside him was another volunteer Angela Sutherland.

“I soon realised there was a fair bit to the job,” says Wally “You can get a call at any time with goods coming from local suppliers, and we never know when our order from Sydney will arrive. You can get pretty tired at times when there’s lots of stock to sort out.”

As well as stock control, Wally and Angela oversee a small team of dedicated volunteers – who serve all those who come. Each shopper is assisted around the FoodHut, creating connections between those who come and those who serve.

“It can be tricky finding volunteers who are available at the times we open and are able to handle the job, but we’ve had many great people come and help out over the years,” says Wally.

Wally and Angela’s partnership moved from a ministry one to a life partnership a few years ago, when they tied the knot in marriage.

“I guess I got more than I bargained for in taking on this role,” Wally laughs.

The FoodHut continues to be a vital help to many people in need. It opens twice a week and has around 100 members sign on each year. In recent times, there has also been growth in people seeking crisis help through a voucher system which is overseen by Rotary.

“People can go to community agencies and receive $10 vouchers. In the FoodHut $10 goes a long way – and people walk out with several bags full of things they need to see them through.”

The FoodHut has been housed in a small portable building for the past 12 years, but it’s beginning to show its age. Plans are in place for a new purpose-built facility, which will include more space for the FoodHut and for other community connections.

“This building has served its purpose, but we’ve had to shuffle things around and try to make do. The new building will be much more spacious, easier to receive goods to and have better access for older people and those with disabilities.”

A fundraising campaign is underway to raise the money needed for the new facility. A grassroots fundraising Bottle & Can collection is being taken up by the community, and others are signing on to make donations. The FoodHut is registered under Fresh Hope Engage and donations of $2 and over are tax deductible. Donate now!