Mary and Paul are an important part of our frontline team, helping to run the Addison Road Community Organisation office and receiving visitors throughout the year. They work here as volunteers, giving their time and good humour freely to almost every occasion. Sometimes they work weekends too. It’s not always easy, but they say it’s very rewarding.
Both Mary and Paul worked in more corporate fields before coming here. “I worked in strict business hours with lots of ties being worn and things like that,” Paul says. Then he sits up straight like a block of wood. “It’s a bit freer here,” he laughs. “But there’s still a lot of planning in the chaos.”
Paul remembers in the lead-up to Christmas “getting 30 to 40 calls on the phone, people crying because they had no food. I told them to come into our Food Pantry here [in Marrickville]. They’d go in to the shop and get $20 worth of groceries to get them through. Then I’d say wait a minute, and I’d duck back in and come back out with a few chocolates off the shelf and put them on top of their box of food. Just a little extra. I probably shouldn’t do that,” he says shyly. “But I was taking executive privileges!”
When he thinks about highlights over the past year, Paul reckons, “I cut it down to everything that happened in Gumbramorra Hall. The way it was turned into a Food Relief Hub [after Covid-19 hit in March]. The way so many boxes of food were packed. The food we provided for the overseas students that were stranded here without support, food for the refugees, food for people in need, for all the charity groups that came in. We got 160 pallets of chocolates donated by Heinemann [Tax & Duty Free] – watching all that chocolate get moved in and given out again was something to see at Christmas.”
“All that activity for #HampersofHope created a lot of interest too. Lots of media and TV. Channel 7 Sunrise came here and broadcast for a morning [with weatherman Sam Mac] to show the work we were doing; what Addi Road does and why.
“It just gave me joy. The whole thing. Knowing with the Food Pantry and with #HampersofHope … it’s about much more than how I feel. But you know that someone is having dinner because of the food hampers. It was great to see Sunrise here and all that media attention and see how it all paid off. The recognition was fantastic. Now the whole world knows what we do!”
Mary agrees about the joy. “What touched my heart is that the people donating and the volunteers gave so much to make the hampers so beautiful. It was so nice to know the #HampersofHope were going to bring a smile to someone at Christmas as well as give them lots of basics. It felt great just to be there in the Hall packing the hampers with everyone, packing them while other people were bringing in even more donations and other [charity] groups were arriving and collecting the hampers to take them back out into the community.
She pauses to explain why she and Paul volunteer so much – and what Addi Road feels like to her. It can be a hard thing to pin down. “There is so much going on here. But it all feels so good,” she says, “I feel like a paid worker even when I am volunteering!” she laughs.
“Working here, you also get to see a lot of things you might have never experienced before. You see a lot of people giving. It affects me a lot because it really does fill my heart with happiness to be in the middle of it all, helping out with everyone else. The whole community, all kinds of people, coming together. I praise the staff, I praise the donors, I praise the volunteers, I praise Rosanna (Barbero, Addi Road CEO), I praise everyone who gets involved.”
YOU can donate to Addi Road’s food justice program here.
YOU can find out more about volunteering here.