16 August 2022

Food drive volunteers evoke community generosity

St Hilary’s Hope food drive volunteers. Picture: Michael Urwin

Jenan Taylor

9 May 2022

Hard work has paid off for scores of Anglican volunteers after thousands of grocery items were donated as part of an annual food drive in Boroondara.

Up to120 parishioners from St Hilary’s Kew, St Silas’ North Balwyn, St Augustine’s Mont Albert and other local churches collected more than 2000 bags of non-perishable goods for the St Hilary’s Hope food drive.

Aiming to secure donations for community agencies supporting the area’s disadvantaged people, the volunteers engaged with shoppers outside 11 participating supermarkets across the day.

St Hilary’s volunteer coordinator Michael Fitzgerald said that the initiative often resulted in enough goods being collected to fill the pantries of service providers, including Camcare and Doncare, for up to a year.

He said that in the past the collection bags would stand three and four deep in the hall where they were taken after the drive, sometimes taking up to a week and half to be sorted through by the volunteers.

Mr Fitzgerald, who is a volunteer himself, said some agencies would usually have to roster on more people to just to be able to cope with it all. “For the agencies it is the biggest day of donations, and it fuels them for the year so that they can continue to give out food over that time.”

But the food initiative, which has been happening for more than 30 years, was usually the result of months of planning and hard work, Mr Fitzgerald said.

Archbishop Philip Freier and St Hilary’s volunteer coordinator Michael Fitzgerald. Picture: Michael Fitzgerald.

It started in October, and activities slowly escalated, he said.  By March the volunteers would be meeting twice a week, engaging with supermarket managers and thousands of residences.  

In previous years the volunteer group had door knocked up to 7000 homes and left residents a blue bag to fill them with non-perishable donations.

This year however, and because of COVID considerations, Mr Fitzgerald said they’d decided to letter-drop houses informing residents that the collections would take place outside the actual supermarkets.

He said it was also less confrontational for the volunteers to talk with people outside the supermarket than at their front doors where residents might not be as receptive.

“Saturday morning shoppers see us, recognise us from the leaflets and there are good conversations to be had with them, just as there are always good conversations across 120 volunteers.”

Mr Fitzgerald said just trying to help out was what drove many of the volunteers.

“We live in Boroondara, but even in places like that we’re acutely aware that there are people suffering and disadvantaged. And with COVID that has been so much more pronounced. It’s rewarding to be able to see the generosity of people and we’re just amazed that so many people donate on that day. It restores faith in humanity that people do care for those less fortunate than themselves.”

This year, Archbishop Philip Freier joined the volunteers outside a supermarket in Kew.

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