The office of the Addison Road Community Organisation. Quiet, unusually early today, as people work remotely and others leave for meetings or simply head home exhausted.
We love the mismatched vintage furniture, the books and files and magazines covering the desks along with our computers. On the back wall, a great huge black calendar painted and gridded-up by Mina to bring some order and anticipation to the year.
Across the car park, at our Addi Road Food Relief Hub, we are running 30 shifts a week with 300 volunteers in all, packing 1000s of hampers to be picked up by some 30 plus community organisations, local councils and area commands made up of police and military getting the food out there to people in need during lockdown.
Next door to the office is our low-cost grocery store, Addi Road Food Pantry Marrickville. For $5 people can do a shop that is worth more like $20 and buy whatever they like. Then we throw in free fruit and vegetables and a loaf of sourdough (great for toast!) from The Bread & Butter Project. We do a lot for the environment around rescued food as well as buying-in stock we need – and benefiting from a whole bunch of brilliant donors who keep us happening, not to mention the community that shops here with an awareness of helping the environment and some wise old waste-not want-not spirit.
We are not into a soup-kitchen, prove-you-are-poor, take-what-we-give-you vibe. Better people spend money the way they like and we contribute plenty of good nutrition as an extra bonus in the deal once they have chosen exactly what they want.
These are just some words from the Inner West front of a battle that finds a beautiful edge here. An empty room and the ghosts of action.
There’s lots more we do. The ‘Racism Not Welcome’ street sign campaign and everything associated with it. Community art events and music and poetry slam nights and the Addi Road Writers’ Festival when lockdown is not keeping the doors closed. Social justice campaigns like ‘Raise the Rate’ that we pushed hard on to boost Job Seeker, and now a new campaign bringing community organisations into an alliance in support of a basic living wage.
There’s our children’s book, The Hollow Tree. And our groundbreaking national conference for a greener, better city, Rethinking the Urban Forest. Oh yeah, there’s also all the tenants here enjoying subsidised rents across our nine acre property: artist spaces, yoga classes, the Hellenic Theatre, Radio Skid Row, the list rolls on… not to mention around 170 trees we need to look after and have inspected by arborists, and the rambling green space open to the community.
But today, all of a sudden, it’s quiet time. Like the tide has gone out, before the tide comes in mighty strong again.
Tomorrow Rosanna will be in her office greeting refugees from Afghanistan. Craig Foster will swing by to pack hampers in the hall and talk politics with her. Gurwinder will be at her desk making sure everyone know what is going on. Susan and Mary will be dealing with food hamper requests and telling our team of volunteer drivers where they need to go across the city.
These are just some words from the Inner West front of a battle that finds a beautiful edge here. An empty room and the ghosts of action. Yesterday, Elena started to cry after a phone call because someone’s story and their need affected her so much. Other days, the madness and energy brings laughter and answers to a lot of problems – as well as all the creativity and talent and vision we can muster to keep rolling forward.
It’s not always easy, but it seems to turn out okay. In fact, it’s some kind of great human experience being here each day, meeting so many different people doing their best.
When the tears arrived, Susan took Elena outside to sit and talk around the splintering backyard table, a big old tree spilling its leaves and twigs and seeds everywhere. The main office and its side rooms are like that spreading tree and seed-covered table; the memories and feelings are all over it. Even when no one is here, the place is still alive and waiting for everyone to be a part of it again.