Chairman Dick van Leeuwen with 'Food Relief' Manager Anne Pascoe and President David
Chairman for the evening, Rotarian Dick vanLeeuwen introduced the guest speaker from the Baw Baw Combined Churches Food Relief, Anne Pascoe.
     Anne explained that she lead a small team that started up the Food Relief some ten years ago out of a small room in the back of a Church. She eventually successfully involved other Churches and to date some 12 Churches in the Baw Baw Shire are directly involved in fundraising and volunteer support.
     In that time both the needs, services and facilities have changed dramatically, from originally providing a small bag of groceries to now being able to supply $200.00 worth of food up to 8 times a year.       The relationship that now exists with the State organisation, Food Relief, a location move to larger premises with an Opportunity Shop attached and increased financial support from this, along with many significant donors of food and groceries, have all facilitated the growth of the Organisation.
     Anne said that there was significant poverty in our area often largely unseen. The Combined Churches Food Relief are supporting 743 families currently on their books, the circumstances of these people being in need vary from unemployment, the cost of rent, the sky rocketing costs of utilities, domestic violence and those on Government benefits including, age pensions, are all factors seen regularly.
     The Charity has around 50 volunteers but could easily accommodate more, they have around 30 clients come through their doors each day, and receive up to 5 tonnes of food from Food Relief each week.
     The first step for anyone in need of short term emergency food assistance is to register with us. Each client must reside in the Baw Baw Shire and should be a current Health Care / Pensioner Concession Card holder (or recent applicant to Centrelink). Once registered clients can make up to eight visits per year for food assistance. We also cater for those in extenuating circumstances who are not yet Card Holders e.g. after loss of employment or natural disasters such as bush fires.
     We ask each client for a $10 donation per visit, which provides the opportunity to "shop" for a range of items from our food bank. The donation assists towards the purchase of food items that aren't donated to Food Relief. It is appreciated if clients can bring their own bags or boxes. One of our objectives is to provide access to healthy foods including fruit, vegetables and bread. We also operate a free cafe service where visitors can sit and relax, and have a chat with our friendly and supportive volunteers.
     Fortunately, our current food relief premises are large enough to cater for a good sized area for our supermarket items and the freezers.
     We appreciate donations of items for our Op Shop including clothing, toys, books, bric-a-brac and general goods. We believe in effective and environmentally friendly recycling - which is provided by our Op Shop. We also believe in fair prices with our Op Shop aiming to have the lowest prices in Warragul.
     It is a great means of effective environmentally friendly recycling, and even though our Charity Shop prices are extremely competitive, ( i.e. very low ) we appreciate the opportunity to occasional pass on items to those in need, free of charge.
There are four types of assistance that we would be very grateful to receive.
#1 Food items for Food Relief
#2 Items for our Op Shop
#3 Volunteers wishing to be involved with our Food Relief service and Opportunity Shop
#4 Financial donations
Our opening hours are Food Relief: Monday - Thursday inclusive, 10.00am to 2.00pm and the  Op Shop: Monday - Thursday inclusive, 9.00am to 3.00pm and every Sat 8.00am - 1.00pm
Factory 6, 11 Pearse St Warragul
Office phone number is 03 5622 3891              or Phone Anne on 0419 375 813             or Phone Trish on 0422 031 689
Many questions and comments from members and Chairman Dick reflected the appreciation of members for the efforts of Anne and her team.
Confirmation was provided of the club's recent donation of $2,000 to assist with the growing pressure on services, particularly at Christmas.