“We don’t ask questions. There is no criteria for people to meet – when our doors are open, everyone is welcome.”
That’s a statement from CatholicCare Hunter-Manning Food Programs Coordinator Baden Ellis. He is sharing those words from a place of compassion, in a bid to ensure anyone who is struggling can come forward. Everyone is welcome.
For almost five years now, the passionate Novocastrian has supported people less fortunate than himself through CatholicCare’s Community Kitchens and Food Programs.
Baden remains so dedicated to the service because he knows he can make a real difference for people doing it tough.
“It’s a great opportunity to be able to give back to the community that’s also helped me in the past,” he said.
“It’s incredible working with a great bunch of volunteers and seeing our friends (people who access the kitchens) each week is a privilege.”
In Baden’s eyes, everyone who walks into one of our services is important and worthy of support – one story he shares is that of a 17-year-old who needed a helping hand.
“Only recently, my team leader at Toronto called me about a young lady who was 17 years old and had just left out-of-home care,” he said.
“She was in her own place for the first time, but that week she had fallen through the cracks.
“She didn’t have Centrelink set up or any other services helping her but when she heard about us, she was able to come down and get a free dinner and a couple to take away.
“It was just a nice way to be able to help someone who hadnowhere else to turn, she didn’t need ongoing support, but we were able to get her through that week when it was needed.”
To help more people, Baden and his team have recently opened a new Community Kitchen in Toronto, and plan to open another in Maitland by the end of the year.
This is to meet the ever-growing demand in our local area.
“There’s a great need out there, there are lots of people who are struggling to make ends meet,” Baden said.
With no government funding, CatholicCare relies on the community’s generosity to keep these services running.
That’s why they’ve launched a 2022 fundraising appeal: Make a Difference. As we continue braving the cold, they’re asking us to think about those who need some extra help.
Baden encourages anyone who can spare a few dollars to donate.
“Donations ensure that we can continue providing meals to those in our community who need it most. Whether it’s only $2 or a large contribution, everything is worthwhile,” he said.
If you can’t donate, there are other ways you can support the Community Kitchens. Simply sharing what CatholicCare do with friends and family can have a big impact, or you may be able to spare a few hours a week to volunteer.
“We’re always after volunteers. It doesn’t matter if you are not a great cook, there is a role for everybody,” Baden said.
“We have a number of different volunteering roles. We have some who collect food donations, we have kitchen volunteers, and there is also volunteers who are just there to have a coffee and a conversation with our friends.
“They may not have someone to speak to all the time, so just having a regular face that they can come and say hi to at the Community Kitchen is a great service we can offer.”
If you know someone who is struggling, please encourage them to seek out help. CatholicCare is willing to help anyone who needs it.
To find your nearest Community Kitchen or for info on volunteering, go to www.catholiccare.org.au/community-programs/community-kitchens
For information on how to donate to the Make a Difference Appeal, visit www.catholiccare.org.au/makeadifference