Inner Life

Benita always ready with hug, smile and prayer

By Jen Van Ewyk

October 25 2017Seventy-six year old Benita Pippos is always ready to listen and help people in times of distress. With a constant smile on her face, Benita speaks of her unconditional love for people, especially those she helps at Anglicare Victoria’s Emergency Relief program at St Alban’s Parish.

“I stand here with open arms because some of them are sad,’’ says Benita. “Some of them have had a bad week. Some older people haven’t had anyone to speak to for the week. Sometimes they come into the church and I say, ‘I’ll light you a candle and we’ll pray for a minute’. That’s just part of what we do. We care for people.

“I always say that they’re my people, I love them. When they come in, they’re always ready for a hug. One young lady who comes in says ‘nobody hugs me except you’. She feels that she is worthy to come along. She doesn’t feel judged.”

Benita Pippos – those she helps at St Albans are ‘my people’ she says.

After experiencing hardship many years ago, Benita is inspired to help others. When she first arrived in Melbourne in the 1960’s, she had only two blankets, the clothes she was wearing, virtually no money, four young children to care for and her husband was looking for a job. After receiving help with finding food and accommodation, she eventually found her feet.

Once established, Benita promised God she would do whatever she could to help others in a similar situation and give back to people who were less fortunate.

In 2007, this dream was finally realised when the Revd Faith Johnson set up a food relief program for the community in partnership with St Albans Parish. Revd Johnson asked Benita to help and she has been there ever since for the local community.

Benita recalls a story about a woman who turned up one morning to St Albans’ Emergency Relief in tears. The woman was scared to send her son to school that day because she couldn’t provide him with lunch. She was worried that the authorities would be called.

“I got a packet of rolls and condiments and said, ‘make some lunch, send him to school and say that you were running late’.” The woman was extremely thankful.

“I help people over the hill in their period of hardship. On the other side they will manage,” says Benita.

Donors and companies give food and funds to buy bulk items. Benita does most of the purchasing and has also arranged the donation of bread and other items from local retailers.

She spends countless hours buying bulk specials from the supermarket including tea, coffee, sugar, rice, soap and dishwashing detergent and sorting these items into smaller quantities, to save on costs and so there is enough for everyone. She ferries the items in her small car to the centre, up to three or four times per day, six days per week in order to build up stock for the next opening day of the Emergency Relief Centre.

Benita’s hard work has not gone unnoticed.

Bishop Kay Goldsworthy AO, now the Anglican Bishop of Gippsland and soon to be the Archbishop of Perth, describes Benita as “an inspiration as a woman of faith”.

Recently Benita was highly commended for an Outstanding Volunteer award at Anglicare Victoria’s Chairperson’s Awards. The awards celebrate and recognise the extraordinary efforts and achievements of staff, volunteers and clients.

Benita aims to continue providing love and support for the local community as long as possible.

“I intend to go on trying as long as I can. I’ll be here to help people and feed people.”

To learn more about volunteering with Anglicare Victoria, phone 1800 809 722 or visit www.anglicarevic.org.au

Jen Van Ewyk is a media officer at Anglicare Victoria.