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Hawkesbury’s Helping Hands Ahead of the Floods

By Sophie Poredos

Tucked away in a warehouse on Walker Street, this homeless aid organisation in South Windsor is one of a kind: offering hot food, drop in hub, and hot showers even in the face of ongoing flood threats.

Since the South Windsor charity’s inception in 2011 by Linda Strickland and her daughter, hot meals have been offered every Saturday and Sunday; fortifying the community and offering dignity back into the lives of those doing it tough.

The atmosphere at the dinners is beautiful and attention to detail is taken with spreads, linen tablecloths and always a delicious dessert to finish the night with. Linda is incredibly down-to-earth and passionate about her cause, with great ambitions to offer even more services, “We are a food rescue & relief charity trying to help those experiencing homelessness and food poverty”.

Hawkesbury’s Helping Hands also prepares fresh food hampers sold each Saturday 2 – 4:30pm. Despite the struggle to maintain the cap at $20, the hampers remain incredibly generous and affordable as most of the food is purchased out of pocket by the charity.

The Wonderful Team Of Volunteers At Hawkesburys Helping Hands At A Hamper Day Hawkesbury’s Helping Hands Ahead Of The Floods
The wonderful team of volunteers at hawkesbury’s helping hands at a hamper day!

The hampers are nutritionally dense, offering people almost a trolley-worth of cold food, dry cupboard goods and fresh produce.

Battling against the sharp bite of Winter and the rise of rough sleepers, Linda offers hot showers and has recently introduced a ‘Warm Room’ on the top level of the warehouse, which operates 8am to 1pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Community and connection is at the heart of Linda’s work, as the ‘Hub’ which operates at the same time is a safe place for people to have a cup of tea and connect with nearby services.

“Our warm room gives people a chance to snuggle up on a bean-bag, have a nap, and watch TV. It gives them a safe where they can relax during the day. They’re welcome to bring up coffee, tea or popcorn – whatever they choose. A lot of people who are homeless don’t have a lot of choices and giving someone a choice, is giving them their dignity”.

A new computer room, expected to open within the next month in partnership with Mastercard, will offer opportunities for people to bridge the gap in technological access. Donations of desks, computers, printers and also a free-wifi network are included for viable job-searching opportunities without the judgement of public spaces.

The impact of Hawkesbury’s Helping Hands on the local community is phenomenal, Linda has seen families grow up and people’s situations change: “We still have people come in and say, ‘You were there when we needed you the most’. Last year, I was surprised when a group of regulars visited me outside the warehouse saying ‘We came home for Christmas!’ It was incredibly moving”.

Hearty Roast Dinner At A Meal Service Hawkesbury’s Helping Hands Ahead Of The Floods
Hearty roast dinner at a meal service.

However, Hawkesbury’s Helping Hands has been greatly affected by the cost of living crisis as Linda reflected on the increased pressure on their services: “A new demographic has found themselves in these tough situations – the working poor. But the cost of living is also affecting charities – our overheads are higher. Hawkesbury’s Helping Hands is completely unfunded and relies solely on donations. The Hawkesbury has also dealt with eight major floods in 2 to 3 years and has been hit so hard, we are in constant recovery mode.”

Linda praises her volunteers and expresses her deepest gratitude to everyone that has helped: “We are very fortunate with our volunteers, without the community and volunteers we wouldn’t be running for 13 years. Thank you for believing in us and our core mission”. She also is desperate for new community-minded individuals who are willing to offer 4 hours a month to volunteer in cooking, delivering ingredients or assisting at food pickups.

You can contact Linda at [email protected] and also check out the amazing work on the Facebook Page: Hawkesbury’s Helping Hand. If you find yourself in difficult times, swing by Unit E on 28 Walker Street, South Windsor to receive a helping hand from the lovely volunteers. Their opening hours are 9am to 1pm Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and meal services are 12pm to 1pm on weekends

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