The historic church of St Paul's Burwood has had to build 'a shed' in the rectory grounds.
The St Paul's Parish Pantry started some 6 to 7 years ago because there were people knocking on the Parish door asking for help. At that time there were just a few tins of food (left over from the old 'tin bin' days) on a little 3 shelved book case. However parishioners began to bring more food and another bookcase was added and then another until every square inch of the Parish Office was used with the donated food.
The need has kept growing. The Rector and the parish office staff have had to limit the days and hours that people can come, otherwise nothing else would be done in the office. In the latter part of 2017 it was time to expand. With the help of a State Government Community Building Partnership Grant, the Parish has erected 'the Shed' in the Rectory grounds, together with an awning for shelter for those who come.
This will become the new 'parish pantry'. It will enable the pantry to be open more often. The plan in the new year is for the Pantry to branch out into fresh fruit and vegetables, which is not currently possible. The new 'Shed' site is not close to the parish office, so it will be staffed by the parish volunteers. It is hoped the Pantry can be opened more frequently and for longer hours.
Who are the people the Pantry serves?
The Rector, Fr James Collins listed the wide range of people who come needing and asking for food. They are those sleeping rough; the homeless, ie those sleeping in garages and those couch surfing; the mentally challenged; single parents (both men and women) with children—some very young children; those in boarding houses; those out of work, or on limited contract or casual work or those retrenched looking for work. There are the refugees and migrants—often without assistance or knowledge of how to how to access resources; the elderly, who have difficulty managing on an age pension; those just released from prison or mental health wards who are given little to re-establish themselves in the community.
Fr James said 'The need has kept growing and we won't turn people away if we can find a way to help them.' 'For a long time we kept the Pantry going without any help other than from our parishioners. Then the Mayor Cr. John Faker made the Pantry the recipient of the Mayor's Christmas Appeal. Then the next year, Anglicare started to contribute, as did local business men. Chalmer's Rd Special School and the Burwood Baptist Community Church and the Brighton Retirement Village, Croydon have also got on board.'
'Our clientele is changing. We still have our regular street people but we have an ever increasing number of people who can manage to pay rent for a room in a boarding house but by the time bills are paid there is little left for food. The way forward is to build 'the Shed' and stock it and then for volunteers to open it as often as possible.'