A young woman with two young children fleeing family violence; a young man with a disability; a couple struggling with family life, housing, lack of food and nappies; a woman overwhelmed with trying to pay both her gas and electricity bills.
This is just an ordinary morning in our Emergency Relief program at Warragul.
As they walk through the door they receive a warm smile and welcome from our friendly volunteers, who will assess their needs and make a plan for support and assistance, while also providing a listening ear.
And as they walk out the door, they leave with various forms of support and comfort - food bags and care parcels, Coles vouchers, maybe fuel vouchers or an overdue bill paid - and for these people the world can look a little brighter.
The busy work
It’s busy work for our staff and volunteers in the office. Paperwork lines the tables along with forms (and more forms!), voucher numbers, scanning, photocopying, the phone and doorbell ringing constant… but our welcome is always ready.
On the two weekdays when we provide Emergency Relief, our volunteers and staff will say “it’s a hectic day today!” But in fact they said it yesterday, and last week, and no doubt they will say it the following week as well.
We are constantly networking, receiving and making referrals, and collaborating with other agencies as we all try to meet the needs of vulnerable individuals and families as best we can.
We share knowledge and helpful information across agencies and we are eternally grateful for this, as we have never delivered such a program before. Gaining the wisdom of those who have blazed the trail of the past is invaluable.
We also refer to financial counselling at Anglicare and they refer to us for assistance. Baw Baw Food Relief (BBFR), run by volunteers, also supports our clients. They provide beautiful homemade quiches to distribute and we too refer to each other. One of our receptionists is now best friends with the BBFR admin - next they will be inviting each other to Christmas, they speak so often!
Image: The stacks of material aid in cupboards and shelves at Warragul.
The ‘new look’ for the office
Our office has undergone many changes too, since starting the provision of Emergency Relief. Our group room has food bags in the cupboards where once we held junk; the counsellor’s office now has care packages stacked on their shelves instead of reference books; on benches there are donated hand-knitted jumpers for kids; and my office has shelves with hand-knitted scarves for clients, especially the homeless.
Furthermore, the local presbytery houses the deliveries from Foodbank! And we thank Fr Peter Slater for his generosity as we troop through his home with trolleys loaded up with the food, which we then walk down to our office. Our trolley needs a brake as the journey is downhill, so if you hear of a runaway trolley arriving in the centre of Warragul shopping centre, you can be fairly sure it has come from CatholicCare!
Foodbank orders often bring a laugh too. What we thought were 1kg bags of flour turned out to be 20kg bags of flour... we now have enough crostini biscuits to take us into the 22nd century… and we’ve discovered no-one likes tins of four-bean mix!
We are all on a learning curve as we manage the challenges of such a big program, but we are cheered on by the difference we can make in people’s lives.
So here’s to the many more ‘hectic days’ in CatholicCare’s Warragul office!
- Denise Lacey, Regional Manager for Gippsland