Every Saturday afternoon since 2004, the van has served hot meals and beverages in Islington Park to those in our community who struggle with finding substantial sustenance on a daily basis.
Operated by teams of dedicated volunteers from across the parishes, St Francis Xavier’s College, Hamilton, and CatholicCare, the Van, a weary veteran of delivering tens of thousands of meals, has fallen into disrepair and is in desperate need of replacement. The van has been out of operation since the generator was stolen earlier this year and the service is now operating at a reduced capacity from the back of a ute.
Bob Sheridan, Volunteer Co-ordinator and teacher at St Francis Xavier’s, said, “Since losing the van, the people we serve have lost their sense of belonging. We need to get the ‘community’ back!” The van was much more than a hot meal to its patrons. It was a place for people to come, sit down and enjoy the company of volunteers and other patrons. It was a social event that gave warmth, not only through the food it served, but through the communication and friendships forged at the regular meeting place for many of Newcastle’s disadvantaged.
Two of Bob’s students and Night Care Van team members gave an insight into the social value the service brings to the region. “People were sitting around at tables talking and eating with each other, enjoying one another’s company with no sense of discrimination because of appearance or social class,” says Year 12 student, Gabrielle Lynch. Fellow Year 12 student, Bella Gray, adds that the van is important not just for single people, but families too. “I was surprised to see that families came and received food for their children as young as three. The kids were so happy to receive this yummy food and their faces lit up at the sight.”
The Night Care Van receives no funding, relying on the generosity of in-kind donations and on our tireless volunteers to continue to operate. Lou Rak, CatholicCare’s Operations Manager, says, “We are putting the call out for donations to bring this fundamental service back into operation and once again give the homeless a place to receive a decent meal and find a sense of belonging.” $88,000 is needed to purchase a fully-equipped replacement van. To kick-start the Night Care Van fund-raising campaign, a regular patron, who recently passed away, opened his wallet and gave the last five dollars he had. The generosity of this man has inspired the drive to get the van back on the road to serve the community of Newcastle.
Photo courtesy of Conor Ashleigh.
Lisa Short is the Director of CatholicCare Social Services Hunter Manning. To make a donation to the Night Care Van, please P Mark Lees 4979 1124 or E firstname.lastname@example.org.