Community pantry offers friendly help for cash-strapped
It’s a simple idea that shows a lot of heart, a cupboard repurposed as a community pantry to help people who need a bit of help with the cost of living.
Located in the foyer of Mary Immaculate Church in Waverley and called the Kindness Cupboard, the pantry is painted in pastel pink and blue hues and holds grocery items such as tinned vegetables, pasta, soup, baby food, breakfast cereal, toothbrushes, and even new blankets and pillows.
“People feel welcome when they come in here”
Clemintina Hartson, the founder of local charity Project Kindness, teamed up with local MP and parishioner Dr Marjorie O’Neill to provide the pantry which offers anonymity to the donors and those who benefit from its contents. It is available 7am-5pm, seven days a week unless it is raining.
Ms Hartson, an alumni of St Clare’s College in Waverley, said the location of the pantry inside the church entrance held special meaning for her as a once-frequent visitor and she was grateful for the permission of parish priest Fr Bernie Thomas OFM.
“Fr Bernie’s support continues to be amazing,” she said. “It’s a discreet location, just on the right–hand side of the foyer, and it’s also a really welcoming place that people feel welcome coming in to.”
The eastern suburbs of Sydney are usually associated with affluence, but the Waverley council area, which incorporates the suburbs of Waverley, Bondi and Tamarama has its share of people sleeping rough or in crisis accommodation or struggling to pay rent.
“The increase in calls for support we’ve had since the start of the pandemic has been huge,” said Ms Hartson.
“There’s definitely a big need out in the community for help with the costs of living.”
Dr O’Neill said the project enabled her to “put into action the social justice principles embedded in me by the Poor Clare nuns in primary school at St Charles’ Waverley and then by the Sisters of Charity nuns at St Vincent’s College Potts Point”.
“It deeply saddens me that there are so many people living in my electorate, in the midst of overt affluence, who are experiencing food insecurity. It is just not OK,” she said.
“Since COVID-19, the community need has grown. What could be more fundamental to human rights than secure access to adequate food?
“This is a project that is very close to my heart and it provided me with a wonderful opportunity to work with my dear friend Father Bernie and the amazing Clemintina.”
After its 13 June launch the Kindness Cupboard was promoted through social media and within the first week was getting plenty of use.
Ms Hartson said she and Dr O’Neill would continue to review its use with a view to setting up a few other community pantries in the local area if needed.