Many not-for-profit organisations have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis as their donor base experiences financial hardship, and uncertainty lingers about the long-term economic affects of the pandemic. What this means is that services meeting the needs of our most vulnerable are at risk.
For the last 50 years, Parramatta Mission has provided meals, accommodation and mental health services for the disadvantaged across Greater Western Sydney, and now their popular Meals Plus program is under threat because of the crisis.
“Meals Plus is a service that does breakfast and lunch and anyone in the community that needs that — it’s available to them,” said Parramatta Mission Service Manager Angela Daynes.
“It’s also a bit of a community hub and a place where people can come when they need additional support when they’re struggling with things. We have different organisations come in, whether it’s Legal Aid or Centrelink, and people are met where they’re at and our team are there to connect them with the services that they need.”
The lockdown restrictions have meant the Meals Plus service has had to adapt for the current regulations, and with that has come extra cost.
“Like everyone we’re just trying to stay on top of things and respond quickly to the latest information. What we’re doing at the moment is takeaway meals and follow-up phone calls with the people we’ve not seen for a while who usually come,” Angela says.
“We don’t get any government grants. For our ongoing service we really rely on people donating. And we get that people are finding it tough to do that moment. Our costs have increased in offering takeaway deliveries and doing the extra cleaning [required during the Coronavirus pandemic], but we’re just asking people to consider what they can give.”
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Giving doesn’t necessarily have to be money, says Angela – with some people offering to supply cleaning services or help with food delivery.
“With some people off work, or with changed circumstances, we’ve had an array of people offering their services for volunteering,” she said. We’ve really been overwhelmed by the support. If people have extra time on their hands it’s fantastic.”
In enabling Meals Plus to continue, an important connection point for the community will also be able to remain.
“The meal is something that’s part of our hospitality as an organisation and part of Parramatta Mission’s [open door] philosophy,” Angela says. “At the moment it’s really hard because we can’t play it out the way we usually do, but essentially the meal is a just an excuse for connection.
“Some people are coming in because if they didn’t they wouldn’t have a nutritious meal that day, but it’s also a really good ‘temperature-check’ on how the community’s going by offering a meal and asking, ‘How you going?’. It makes such a difference to the people we’re working with.”