Charities call for crisis help

Naomi Paterson, Don Linch and Barbara Ashton of Cornerstone. 206737_01

By Cam Lucadou-Wells and Danielle Kutchel

Local organisations on the frontline of helping the most vulnerable are changing their practises as part of the response to Covid-19.

And they’re anticipating extra demand on their services as the virus hits hard.

Springvale Benevolent Society volunteers will be limiting in-person contact as part of their door-to-door drop-offs of emergency food vouchers.

President Joe Rechichi said the service had made the changes to keep their volunteers safe.

The charity had yet to receive any SOS calls for provisions from people in self-isolation, but was expecting a surge in demand as a result of the coronavirus.

“We’re currently getting 10 or more extra callouts a month. I hope it doesn’t get any worse.

“We’re coping with our services at the moment. And we’ll try to spread our supplies and vouchers out evenly.

“But more donations of food or cash won’t go astray.”

Mr Rechichi said his food voucher recipients could face empty shelves at supermarkets due to the spree of panic buying.

“If people don’t get greedy in the shops, we can all manage.”

To donate, call Mr Rechichi on 0409 249 881.

Naomi Paterson of Cornerstone, which recently moved to a new location on James Street in Dandenong, said the organisation had experienced an increase in people contacting them asking for assistance with pantry items.

“We can’t meet demand,” she admitted.

“Then there’s the problem of people living pay-check to pay-check, and on the day they get paid, there’s nothing left on the shelves for them to buy.”

Cornerstone has changed the format of its meal services, serving them outside rather than indoors so guests aren’t enclosed in a room.

Meals are presented in takeaway containers so guests have the option of taking them home.

Opening hours remain the same.

“It’s a challenge, working out new ways to support each other and to build and nurture the community,” she said.

Ms Paterson is concerned for the street community, which already faces struggles with basic sanitation and healthcare and is likely to be hit really hard in the Covid-19 crisis.

But she has been encouraged by people who have gotten in touch with her and offered their support for Cornerstone, whether by buying extra meat so the Cornerstone community can have a meal, or the volunteers who are still assisting as much as they can.

“I’m encouraged to see the community spirit being shown by a lot of people,” she said.

“Hopefully we continue to see that and this is a time when we can come together and support each other.”

Cornerstone needs donations of meat, vegetables and staple pantry items.

Anyone interested in assisting Cornerstone can call 0481 186 323 or email


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