Hawkesbury residents of all walks were reminded today of the helping hand available to them at the Hawkesbury City Salvation Army, with the forecourt welcoming friends and strangers with the pleasing sight of fresh fruit and vegetables on display. This fresh produce is available for free at the entrance to the Community of Hope Centre each Tuesday morning, from 10am till 1pm during school terms. The Hope Market Day is a weekly service offered by Hawkesbury City Salvos Community of Hope to achieve two aims; to provide food assistance and security to those experiencing hardship, and to provide a community space for connection, assistance and referral. Indoors, citizens of all ages can be found enjoying a free cuppa and a safely-distanced chat. The Centre's lower level was also abuzz today, with Salvos distributing heavily-subsidised but high-quality food items to visitors via the discreet entrance, accessible by the Church's driveway. Wherever possible, Salvos and visitors alike were seen to be using commonsense to observe social distancing as they stuffed bags with essentials. For six years, Di Sweeney has been one of the Hawkesbury Salvos team to source and organise food to provide to locals. The service was originally kicked off after the group identified a need to replace the formerly-used supermarket gift cards with immediately-available food items, providing a much more efficient and cost-savvy service. She explains, "Sabine, myself and a few others realised that people were in need of food. We saw that they were coming to get money to buy food, and we thought, 'Why can't we cut that middle process out and buy the food for them?' Captain Belinda Atherton says that this expanded service results in greater convenience for community members as well as the capacity to provide more food to a family per visit.
She says, "It allows people to use their income on other essentials, divert towards bills and save on food expenditure."
Di's heartfelt sincerity is obvious as she shares with me the personal stories of clients needing to access food assistance. She is overcome with an obvious intensity of emotion as she explains to me her experiences of being a part of providing relief to locals not only in need of food and shelter, but also compassion.
Hawkesbury community sector workers are daily witnesses of poverty trauma and fatigue, and challenges presented by pandemic have added new complexity to their missions. Some families accessing food assistance and other relief have been plunged into poverty by job losses or under-employment, and will need to access charity assistance for the first time. However, the help they need is never far away, with many community groups like the Salvos and their volunteers providing a service continuously over the crisis. They have done this while taking measures to minimise the risk to their own health.
Di says, "We're open weekly, so people can come and get a week's supply of food to last them. Most of it's pretty nutritious; it's not rubbish. There are quite a few home-cooked meals that we've been given. Second Bite have been very generous towards us."
Hawkesbury Salvos Community of Hope also have partnerships with Foodbank and Hawkesbury Community Kitchen.
Di says that the difference in clientele seeking support from the service has changed noticeably during the covid-19 crisis.
She explains, "There are people in more desperate situations, now, it seems. There are people who have no money and no food. So if we can give that person a hamper to go home with, that is one happy person. That's the goal of it all. So, don't be afraid to come and see us."
Hope Market Day: Tuesdays 10am-1pm.
290 George Street, Windsor.
Visitors wishing to access free produce are asked to bring their own bags.
To see the Community Centre of Hope's website (including contact details) click here.
For information on financial assistance available, please click here.