“The idea is to take what you need when you need it and give what you can when you have it,” said Gabbie Beckley.
The Taree woman is speaking about the Goodwill Pantry, which she, along with the support of various community organisations, created to help people who have fallen on hard times.
“People in the community are free to donate things to the pantry and can come and drop them off day or night, and people can come and take what they need, day or night,” she said.
The pantry is located at the Snugglepot Day Care Centre in Myall Avenue and accessible to the community.
The concept was inspired by Gabbie’s experiences and observations during her university placement with the Samaritans Foundation in Taree. She is studying a masters in social work (professional qualifying) through University of New England.
“I was at the refuge and the hub and saw there was a great need for food and clothing and things like that.
“A lot of the support agencies around are inundated with people in need so I tried to think of something a bit outside the box that would alleviate that need.”
Through her research she learned about similar concepts overseas. “In America they have big letterboxes with school supplies and things in them, and they had ones for non-perishable food. In Israel there was a corner block with hooks and shelves built into this corner wall on a suburban street and people were donating things there.”
With the full support of the Samaritans, its co-ordinator Suzi Rowe, and her university behind her, Gabbie went on to form partnerships with MSS (Manning Support Service) and Upcycleit in Taree, to make her idea a reality.
“Everybody got on board when I shared my vision about what I wanted to do and then I pitched the idea to Jody Rogers at Snugglepot, and she said yes, we’re all for it.”
The pantry was made and painted by Chris at Upcycleit and delivered to Snugglepot not long before Christmas.
“It’s been going really well and been really well supported by lots of people in the community,” said Gabbie.
“The idea is the community supports itself, and that people, when they need it, be it a loaf of bread or a tin of baked beans, can just come and take it, and then when they’re back on their feet or they’ve got a little bit extra, they can think about putting a couple of things in their shopping cart and come and drop it off.”
Jody at Snugglepot said the pantry has been well utilised. “For me, it proves that it’s working,” she said.
People can donate non-perishable food, bread, tins of fruit, veges, soups, baked beans, spaghetti, pasta, tuna and similar.
“All the type of stuff that you can just heat up quickly and just put a meal on for the family quite easily and inexpensively,” said Gabbie.
“Anything people have spare in their pantry that’s still in date, that’s not opened, would be really well received as well.”
Gabbie is hoping to secure community support from businesses.
She said the need it constant and the “overriding thing is giving people back their dignity”.