After recognising the need for a weekly free hot meals for those doing it tough, the Sapphire Community Pantry opened its doors to the community on Tuesday, July 13 from 4pm until 6pm.
The pantry stocks a range of salvaged or donated groceries at a reduced price and is run by volunteers, but now they've stepped up to fill the hole in the community for a weekly soup and meal kitchen.
Disability support worker Aaron Trowbridge has been coming to the pantry with two of his clients for around two years and has been able to bring them to volunteer while also getting the opportunity to help out
The Pantry has asked him to assist with organising and running the weekly meal service. As an ex-chef of 24 years, having worked extensively around Merimbula and Pambula, he brings with him a wealth of knowledge.
"They needed someone to help organise it, someone with a bit of experience and so they offered it to me and I wanted to give a bit more to the community."
His main priority is assisting with the generally running and training inductions for the volunteers but will be helping out with the cooking if need be.
Mr Trowbridge said that the ingredients used to supply the kitchen are all from the pantry.
"We will look at what we have, see what's in the freezer, on the shelves and decide what we can make, and we will probably work on two or three meals at the moment until we see how it goes.
"Hopefully the numbers will pick up and we will work out what the menu is going to be from week to week depending on what ingredients get donated from week to week," he said.
The food on the menu on Tuesday was all made by volunteers from the pantry at their homes due to the lack of commercial kitchen facilities.
They also had a proper barista coffee machine to supply hot drinks such as coffee, teas, and hot chocolate.
"We are hoping that from the meal we can also offer some advice and connections to community outlets to whatever it is that they need, such as Mission Australia and places like that to get them to help," said Trowbridge.
"Social connection is also huge, especially for people with disabilities as they can get quite disconnected from society and so to have somewhere for them to come and gather, it's really important, so hopefully this will fill a void.
Young volunteers give back to their communities after recognising need post bushfires
Annabell Gottwald has beenvolunteering at the Pantry for the last eight months for around two days per week.
She was volunteering on the opening night of the hot meal service and could offer her skills as a barista to make coffees as she has had café experience.
"Particularly after the fire, I really recognised how many volunteers in the community made the trauma and the hardships a bit easier for people, and I wanted to be a part of picking up some of that," she said.
The trauma of seeing so much damage and destruction from the bushfires has left her wanting to give back to the community and in that has decided to move away from full-time work.
"I am trying to find a balance between supporting myself and supporting others," she said.
Most afternoons when she comes into volunteer she does a lot of the mopping, packing up or cleaning. She doesn't mind the jobs she is given though and said she was just glad to give someone else some time off their feet.
Ms Gottwald and fellow volunteer Jarrad Holinger said they also help pack the mobile pantry van that heads off to support residents in Cobargo and Quaama.
While she acknowledged that there is definitely a need for more younger volunteers giving back to the community, she also recognises, "that young people have a pretty difficult time just trying to get their basic needs met as well."
For Ms Gottwald this is a real shame because it has been such a rewarding experience for her.
"I enjoy coming here so much more than any of the jobs I've ever had because it just feels so worth doing.
"Sometimes you just go to work and are not sure about what you've achieved that day or what it meant to have done that every day for two years, but coming here every day actually helps someone out," she said.