Foothills Community Care – Food Drive

Channel 10 weatherman Mike Larkin (left), with Stephen Barrington (centre), CEO Foothills Community Care and Alice Garnick (right) Founder/Coordinator of Community Casseroles.

We understand that times are tough. Imagine trying to isolate and stay as well as possible with nowhere to live, or trying to deal with this crisis when you are already financially disadvantaged.

Our community partner Foothills Community Care is currently facing these and many other challenges as they care for many of our socially disadvantaged community members. Demand for their meals has increased tenfold since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis and will keep increasing as the situation unfolds.

We understand that everyone is currently facing their own set of challenges. If you can spare a few dollars or have staple food items such as pasta (penne, spirals and shells), rice, flour, tomato paste, tinned chickpeas, cheese (1kg blocks), long-life milk, hand sanitizer, disposable gloves (size large) & toilet paper or alike, please drop your items into our branches or directly to Foothills Community Care.

If you would like to make a donation please visit the Foothills Community Care website.

Thank you and stay safe!

Caring and connecting during COVID-19

These days we hear words such as ‘unprecedented’, ‘strange times’, ‘unseen invader’. As we deal with the effects of COVID-19, such terms ring true. And depending on how the virus has impacted us, each of us has had to deal with lock-downs, isolation and physical
distancing. For some the impact has been overwhelming and very difficult.

Readers of the Ferntree Gully News would be very aware of the thoughtful work undertaken by Foothills Community Care (FCC). Their nutritious twice-weekly
dinners build strong social connections throughout the community. Community Casseroles (CC) delivers meals to those who cannot attend the dinners. They are keen to ensure that those at home remain included and well catered for. FCC also provides assistance for homelessness, domestic violence, addiction and so much more. Underlying this is a commitment to respect, generosity, inclusiveness and safety.

COVID-19, with its restrictions of isolation and distancing, struck hard. CEO of FCC, Stephen Barrington and the volunteers faced numerous challenges. Dining experiences had to cease. The chance to meet, chat and socialise, so important to self-esteem and wellbeing, were gone. As Stephen describes this casualty of the virus his voice becomes quieter, his concern for the people evident.

Business shut-downs and the consequent unemployment boosted requests for food from FCC and CC substantially. And there were additional needs for food deliveries, especially from those isolating. At the same time as demand increased, volunteer numbers decreased. Being older, many volunteers are more vulnerable to the virus. It made sense that they too would isolate. However, given these challenges, there was never any question that FCC and CC services would continue. Rather it was a question of how to deal with
increased demand and decreased staff.

In no time the need for meals increased from 200 to 600 per week. New procedures were carefully considered and implemented. A call went out for more volunteers. Caterers, chefs, drivers and other volunteers quickly responded and were put to work. Instead of the twice weekly dinners there are now twice-weekly take-away packages. Guests queue, observing the mandatory distancing. To ensure safety, only gloved-up, hand-sanitised
volunteers handle the fresh food. Guests make their choices by pointing to their selection. As they proceed along the queue they receive a hot meal, non-perishables and toiletries.

For those unable to attend the take-away dinners, there are home deliveries – three to four cooked meals per person per week, plus fresh food, non-perishables and toiletries.

Programs conducted by FCC for those experiencing domestic violence are continuing via online platforms with further plans afoot to ensure continued support and connection.

A different kind of Mother’s Day

Each year FCC honours mums on Mother’s Day with special pamper packs. Mother’s Day, this year, was different. Initially it was thought that the usual Mother’s Day Drive could not proceed. However, concerned for the mums who are isolating and doing it tough, Stephen and his team partnered with numerous local organisations and executive chefs. They planned to prepare 500 gourmet meals to be distributed on Mother’s Day weekend. Excited by this initiative Stephen says, ‘It’s local people helping local people.’

And in fact the actual deliveries to mums reached 600 meals in just one day.

There is talk that restrictions will soon be eased, but it’s likely that many will continue for some time.

FCC’s adjustments to the new circumstances have involved huge planning and re organisation. Stephen Barrington acknowledges all the volunteers, drivers, cooks who generously donate time and services as well as the following local organisations who partnered with FCC to assist with this year’s Mother’s Day Drive: Red Coral Seafood, SecondBite, Montagues, Pinchapoo and Confoil. Top Australian Executive Chefs: Dylan Kemp, Chef of the Year in 2019, Telina Menzies and Chris Taylor.

And in addition to the above, the many, many individuals, groups and organisations who have supported their work over the past few months.

How to help

If you would like to help you can make a donation via the FCC website, or by cheque to:
Foothills Community Care, PO Box 10 Ferntree Gully 3156 Australia.

Donations of rice, flour, pasta, tomato sauce and paste, ring-top tins of spaghetti and baked beans, small juice packs and hand sanitiser can be left at the FTG Bendigo
Community Bank in Station Street.

Whatever the changes and restrictions that COVID-19 might present, it’s clear that Foothills Community Care and Community Casseroles will find innovative ways to carry on serving the community.

Teresa Cannon

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