Matthew is a volunteer here at Addi Road’s Food Relief Hub. He’s been working with us now for a year and a half, right from when “the whole COVID thing” first started to have an impact on Sydney back in March 2020. He takes a generous view of why he has kept returning and volunteering with us up to the present day.
“Well, you guys helped me when I was feeling down. Don’t forget that. Coming here is not just a duty for the volunteers. There are people who are here for their minds as well, you know,” he says, touching the side of his head for emphasis. “It feels good to communicate and work together. To be a part of it all together.”
Even so, Matthew admits “things are definitely getting more intensive and more focussed. Just the sheer volume of what we are packing. The fruit and vegetables we have to sort. It’s really gone up over last three weeks; you can feel it and you can see it.”
Then he laughs and says, “But the atmosphere is still pretty relaxed … we talk, we play music. We go even faster.”
Matthew suddenly gets on a riff about the discipline of wearing masks and being careful for the sake of yourself and others, wherever you are. “Hey, what do you call a man without a mask?” he asks. There’s a long, uncertain pause before he answers himself. “Mr 500!”
The joke flies over everyone’s heads. “Don’t you get it? Because it is a $500 fine for not wearing a mask when you should.”
He rattles out a string of ‘500’ jokes that are all variations on this first one. For some reason he has got people laughing with him. Matthew often tells jokes like these.
If we want to take a picture, he says he’s happy to stand beside pallets of food hampers that he’s helped pack and then stack. They are only some of the hundreds of hampers that are going out today from Addi Road, thanks to all the charity and civil society groups distributing them, and our team of volunteer drivers.
And, of course, thanks to people like Matthew volunteering inside our Food Relief Hub.
“Just call me Masked Matt when you write this story,” he says. “That’s me. Masked Matt to the rescue!”