Parishes, schools and agencies

Offering hope, and a hearty meal, in midst of 'heartbreaking' suffering

By Rachael Lopez

May 16 2020

Its doors may have closed, but St Peter’s Eastern Hill is busier than ever. The inner-city parish normally has thousands of people walking past each day due to its proximity to Parliament Station, and now it is working with the Parliament House kitchens to deliver hundreds of pre-packaged meals every day to people in need during the coronavirus pandemic.  

The church’s coffee cart Heaven at the Hill recently expanded from coffee to catering, giving valuable job training for those wanting to enter the hospitality industry. 

 While the coffee cart is still open, staff and volunteers are now also busy preparing and packing nutritious cooked meals, as well as packs of staples such as eggs, bread and milk, after the Vicar, the Revd Dr Hugh Kempster – who is also Chaplain to State Parliament – was asked by the President of the Legislative Council, Mr Shaun Leane, if Heaven at the Hill could help distribute meals to people in need during this pandemic. 

It is Dr Ree Boddé who is the driving force behind Heaven at the Hill. She volunteers full-time as its Operations Manager, overseeing the full-time barista as well as volunteers. She was eager to take on this next challenge and is now supervising 13 volunteers, including students from four universities. 

 Since the program started on 26 March, meal distribution has grown from 60 to 350 meals per day, and more than 7000 meals have been distributed. Volunteer drivers are going as far as Corio and Sunbury to deliver meals. 

“We are hearing so many heartbreaking stories of job losses, poverty and fear,” Dr Kempster said. Through its chaplaincy program to RMIT University, St Peter’s has discovered Australia’s new poor. There are many students who used to rely on casual work to survive but are now jobless and not eligible for Centrelink support. 

“One young woman who comes to pick up meals told us that she is in a flat with five other students. When the restrictions broke, all six lost their jobs in one day,” he said. 

 He also spoke about a man who came to pick up food. “‘I have never been out of work in 40 years,’ the man told us, ‘but last week, in one day, my wife and I both lost our jobs. We don’t have much in the way of savings. I don’t know what we are going to do. These meals are a life saver! Thank you!’”

To give to St Peter’s Eastern Hill Charitable Foundation, visit https://spehcf.com.au/donations

Read about how Inner West Church and St Peter’s Eastern Hill were ministering through coffee before the COVID-19 pandemic began here.