Back in 2015, a group of St. Michael’s parishioners approached parish priest, Fr. Bernard Buckley with a plan to do something for the people of Traralgon who had fallen on hard times and were struggling financially and socially to cope with their situation.
The idea was a simple one – to provide a meal once a week where patrons could come and sit down to a wholesome meal and some friendly communal interaction.
With Fr. Bernard’s blessing, the group quickly set up 8 teams of volunteers to prepare and serve the meals, and the program was launched in early 2016.
The Vinnie's premises on the corner of Breed and Kay Streets was centrally located and had the room to set up tables and chairs for the meals. Initially, the volunteers cooked the meals at other commercial kitchens and brought them into the premises to be served to the patrons; the volunteers bore the cost of providing the food.
Vinnies soon saw the program's merit and were happy to provide financial assistance to each group to purchase their ingredients. Once Latrobe City heard of the program, they insisted that proper food safety procedures be followed. Eventually, proper cooking facilities were installed at the premises, and all meals were prepared and dispensed on-site.
With the onset of Covid in 2020, Mick’s Kitchen went into recess for several months, but the volunteers were keen to revive it during these difficult times. It was decided to provide take-away meals until we could resume with sit-down meals. Each Thursday, a volunteer group would gather to prepare the meals and package them ready for distribution to the patrons. With the easing of restrictions, we have now been able to return to sit-down meals, although some patrons still prefer takeaway meals. We often feed up to 70 people.
Apart from the generosity of the volunteers, the program has been able to carry out its mission with the assistance of several very generous donations from the community of finances and food. Each week Bakers Delight provides bread rolls for the meals. Banjo’s Bakery allows us to collect their leftover wares, which we bag and distribute to the guests as they leave. Our volunteer list is healthy; currently, we have 6 groups of 12 to 15 people, but we are always looking for more helpers.
Submitted by Judi Scholtes