One year of Dara’s Van

This year has been a year of achievements and change for the Development and Relief Agency (DARA) and its services. 

DARA passed its first year anniversary in July 2018. It continues to provide between 150 and 180 meals per week – and has now served more than 4,000 meals.

In October and November DARA’s Van reached its first anniversary of its expanded services at the new sites of Nelson Bay, Raymond Terrace and Maitland. Since then we have received requests for additional services.

Another great success has been DARA’s collaboration with Orange Sky Laundry, with the two vans co-locating at sites and providing valuable services to those in need. The ability to provide washing facilities and further conversation is valued by our friends. Since the start of the collaboration, Orange Sky has completed 13,860 kilograms of washing as well as, with DARA’s van volunteers, provided 3,630 hours of conversation/socialisation.

Students from two of our secondary schools, St Francis Xavier College, Hamilton and St Joseph’s College, Lochinvar, as well as cooking meals for the Van, also provided volunteer support with teams of students and supervising teachers rostered to assist on the van at both the Islington and Maitland sites.

We have had a number of presentations throughout the year to share information about the work of DARA’s Van with groups such as Rotary clubs, Probus clubs and political branch meetings. We also held a parish breakfast.

Our volunteer teams continue to provide valuable support to the team leaders – Baden Ellis and John Sandy - and friendly service and socialisation opportunities for our friends who seek our assistance. The support provided by members of these volunteer teams is greatly appreciated.

We also extend our appreciation to Maitland Mutual, Peters Real Estate, Maitland Toyota, John Rarity Fruit and Vegetable Warehouse and the Wests Group for continuing to provide food preparation advice and their generous financial support.

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Gary Christensen

Gary Christensen is the Director of CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning. Please visit