Ricky's Place community kitchen will be relaunched in early April to provide hot meals to people in need each Monday lunchtime.
Sapphire Community Projects has signed a lease at St John's Anglican Church, to use the hall and commercial kitchen once a week, to restart the meal program that had to be abandoned in March 2020.
President Christine Welsh said the original name used when the soup kitchen was run by church volunteers would be kept, but they would slightly rebrand to Sapphire Community @ Ricky's Place.
The original church volunteers had been running the service since 2009, thanks to a generous donation from Anglicare and a commercial kitchen set-up funded by Bega Cheese.
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Long-term Ricky's Kitchen church volunteer Peter Burgess said, "we focused on providing a safe place for people to come and not just have a meal, but to interact with other people if they wanted to, because a lot of them are out there and very lonely."
He said their meal program often catered for single mothers with their children, people with disabilities and their carers, and elderly members of the community.
The service had to stop once COVID-19 became a health hazard and concern, especially for its older volunteers. Although they had originally tried to introduce a takeaway service, the changing protocols became too difficult to manage.
Fortunately Christine Welsh, who runs the Sapphire Coast Community Pantry in Bega, stepped up to the job and decided she would help relaunch the program as she could see the dire need for it in the community.
"When COVID struck and lots of other things happened, we noticed a big increase in people wanting hot food," said Ms Welsh.
At the height of the pandemic last year, the pantry decided to open a soup kitchen from their current location at 2 Peden St, but it was clear that when the pandemic was less of a concern there would be a need to have a larger space where people could go and sit and chat.
Sapphire Community Projects have been on the hunt for volunteers to help run the place.
The positions offered included roles such as cooks, kitchen prep staff, set-up and set-down volunteers, dishwashers, wait staff, cleaning, administration, floor managers, meet and greet volunteers, and a first aid officer.
On Monday March 14 a meeting was help for potential volunteers, with around 40 people in attendance.
The roles were explained and the volunteers had a chance to meet the figureheads of the project.
Among them was chef Sharon Cornthwaite, who would be in charge of the kitchen and help train others to cook.
Ms Cornthwaite said she also planned to run budget and rescued meal prep sessions with volunteers, as the food used would be reclaimed from grocery stores in the area.
"We are saving good food from landfill, not that there was anything wrong with it - it's just the way things are, so we are doing an environmental justice as well," said Ms Welsh.
The idea would be to run additional services during the mealtime program, such as legal help, JP services, or free haircuts for example.
The church hall also has toilet and shower facilities that would be available during the mealtimes.
The meals will be open to anyone in the general public each Monday from 1-2pm, from April 4, with the option of a takeaway meal instead.
"There will be no judgement, there will be no, 'well you earn a good wage, why are you here?', because we want anybody and everybody to come and that's the same at the pantry, because we don't know people's circumstances," said Ms Welsh.
People eating at the service can choose to make a small donation if possible, but for others who may be working full-time and want to come and have a hot meal, they might like to make a slightly bigger donation to help cover running costs.
All volunteers would be required to complete a working with children check, and a food handling course if working with food. These will both be offered free to volunteers.
Sapphire Community Projects also expected to run two practice sessions with volunteers in the coming two weeks to help iron out any kinks and help people feel confident going into the meal services.
For more information or to volunteer please send an email to email@example.com or call 0438 407 364.
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