We serve a diverse community with many different people coming to our two meal service locations. In July 2017 we conducted a survey of both our Friday and Saturday kitchen participants. The Saturday service has a mix of people, with both men and women attending, but most (almost 80 per cent) are aged over 45. Around 30 per cent are in public housing and a quarter homeless. The Friday Kitchen serves a large number of homeless participants (around 50 per cent attending are homeless). There is a greater range of ages, though mostly men. Both services serve a large number of repeat customers.
Creating community takes time and intentional effort to break down barriers, treat all equally and creating environments that are safe for all. It also means offering opportunities for meaningful participation.
Community life has been supported through a range of programs and activities including ten pin bowling, table tennis and pool matches, DVDs and board games.
While most of our volunteers offer up one Saturday a month, our community development volunteers commit to attend every fortnight to just talk and intentionally build relationships. Supporting community at the Saturday kitchen continues to have its challenges including the fact that many speak only minimal English, but we have recruited Chinese language speakers to many of our teams and also involved Chinese speakers in translating our announcements and devotions before lunch into Chinese.
Our kitchen drop-in services provide a practical way volunteers can care for people doing it tough but also participate in a mutually supportive community. We encourage our volunteers to serve for at least one year so that relationships can form, and we encourage them to talk with participants. This involves a sacrifice of time and energy, over a weekend. For many Christians who volunteer with us, serving in this ministry is a practical outworking of their faith. Our survey revealed that a key attraction for people at our services were ‘the people’ and the ‘friendly’, ‘welcoming’ and ‘courteous’ staff.