Parishes, schools and agencies

'So many people are very vulnerable': parishes offer helping hand

From the parishes

By Muriel Porter

August 17 2020

Food ministry team from St Bartholomew’s helping at the relief program - Don and Glenis Heath, Ann and Fr Jim Brady

A food relief program named after a retired Archdeacon who had a long ministry in pastoral care in the parish has been established at St Stephen’s Richmond as a response to need during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Marjorie McGregor COVID-19 Relief Program has fed 100 people to date since it opened in early May. Its clients have been migrants, overseas students, hospitality workers, refugees and asylum seekers, and others without work or government support. The program operates on Friday mornings, staffed by volunteers from the church’s sister parish, St Bartholomew’s, Burnley.

Rachael Terry, the combined parishes’ community manager in food and beverages who oversees the relief program, said people needing help had been coming from many suburbs across Melbourne, as well as the local area. Parishioners have generously donated both food and money to the program, which is run in partnership with Anglicare, she explained.

“We are able to give people enough food to keep them going for two weeks at a time,” she said. Supermarket vouchers are also available, to help provide baby food and other specific needs people have. “So many people are very vulnerable at the moment,” she said. “They often have to choose between food and rent and other essentials”.

Rachael, who has an extensive background in hospitality both in her home country, England, and in Australia, where she has lived since 2008, has also been managing the new social enterprise café at St Bartholomew’s. The café, which is housed in a former office at the front of the parish buildings on Burnley Street, has had to close temporarily under the stage three restrictions currently in place in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, as has the popular parish opportunity shop in the adjoining parish hall. 

When it reopens, the café will train people including temporary visa holders who “need a bit of a hand”, Rachael said. “It is very hard for any foreigner to get their first job,” she said, recalling how hard she initially found it here. “Australian experience is very important to get started.”

After fulfilling the eight-week hospitality program and assessment, they will be given a reference letter to help them find work.