By Cam Lucadou-Wells
In the depths of Covid-19, parishioners at Dandenong Polish-Australian Seventh Day Adventist Church found a new way to serve the community.
For the past three months, its Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) team opens the kitchen in James Street twice a week.
They provide hearty takeaway soup, a main meal and food parcels for up to 130 people.
“The church was closed and not meeting any more. So we thought what’s another way we can be a light in the community?” co-organiser Tom Kasprzak said.
“There’s all these people losing their jobs, all these people who can’t work and in distress – let’s do something.”
Some are regulars like a family from Pakistan – destitute since arriving during Covid’s grip in March.
Most of their meagre funds disappeared in their first weeks in quarantine. They have been without income and depended on ADRA’s food, clothes and other essentials.
During the stage-4 restrictions, more and more families are arriving in “dire” need, Mr Kasprzak said.
The soup kitchen has run on parishioners’ time and money, as well as fresh produce from charity FoodBank and donations from businesses like Farm Box Co.
Whenever there’s been a need, God has provided, Mr Kasprzak said.
The kitchen needed a freezer, the members prayed and then donations flowed to buy it the next day.
There’s been no need to dip further into church funds or seek government grants.
“If we start running out of resources I think God will supply it.
“It’s been incredible, it’s been faith building.”
A volunteer has also started home deliveries, helping families fleeing domestic violence or in hotel quarantine.
“She’ll get a phone call from the (Greater Dandenong) Council … and she’ll go grab a whole lot of stuff out of the pantry.”
About 30 people are being rotated through a roster, so there’s no sign of tiring.
“The plan is to see it through until the pandemic ends,” Mr Kasprzak said.
“But we’ll reassess it as something our church should be doing consistently.
“Being a church and being community minded, we’re about helping people who are less fortunate.”
The takeaway soup kitchen is open at 100 James Street on Mondays (main and soup) and Wednesdays (soup only), 6pm-7pm.