A Community of Care

A Community of Care

Tony* enjoyed a privileged existence. He was a student at an independent school on the North Shore in the 1960s, a university graduate and skilled computer technician when that industry was still in its infancy, working at Telecom Australia on the cusp of a telecommunications boom. Divorce and unemployment ensued, prompting a reliance on Council housing and long nights trying to catch a break on the US stock market.

Stan* was born in Serbia in a turbulent time in that nation’s history and is now a local resident. He has been homeless for many years, living a transient existence in the bush or the caves around Hornsby. He is always disheveled, his long fingernails betraying his lack of access to the finer things, yet he is unfailingly polite.

Gabriella and Fernando* are a married couple in their 70s, children of professionals from South America. They have been in Australia for only a few years, living in a unit provided by Uniting Care. They have significant medical issues and navigate Australian culture and bureaucracy with broken English and dreams of a better future. All are now members of a community that finds its focus at The Dish.

The Dish is a charitable organisation begun by members of St John’s Uniting Church almost 20 years ago. It was born from their desire to respond to God’s generosity by meeting the needs of vulnerable people in Hornsby and its districts. Originally, The Dish comprised a soup van that attended Hornsby Park in the evenings so that altruistic congregants could engage with homeless people who frequented the area.

Far from being restricted by the COVID-19 pandemic, in fact recent years have seen the evolution of The Dish into a dynamic organisation that has extended its operations and service initiatives. This is due in part to the appointment of The Dish coordinator – Leisa Liddelow – a warm-hearted local woman who has found new and creative ways to meet the needs of those who struggle.

Currently, The Dish operates from 5 Jersey St Hornsby. Its key function is the meal service it provides on Tuesday and Friday evenings from 5.30pm. When unrestricted, a three-course meal is prepared and served by volunteers from local schools, churches and other organisations in the courtyard in a welcoming atmosphere of friendly service and ready conversation. It has continued to operate during the restrictions, with meals served from a window in the building.

In addition to meals, The Dish volunteers also facilitate the delivery of groceries, including fresh fruit and vegetables, to those who find it hard to afford and access quality food. Alongside Fusion volunteers, they gather at the Fusion building every Monday and Thursday afternoon to sort food that has been rescued from Coles and Woolworths in Hornsby as well as Aldi in Mt Kuringgai, package it for those who have indicated that they need help then deliver it to their doorstep.

The food that has been made available to vulnerable people in Hornsby has been the most obvious gift that The Dish has provided. But The Dish isn’t just about serving a meal to people.  The most important task is to provide people who are lonely, anxious or unwell with a community of their own. As they gather together for a meal, they have forged bonds with each other and other volunteers. These human connections have restored dignity, lifted their spirit and given them people who will share their experiences and listen to them.

If you would like to partner with The Dish through voluntary service or financial contribution, please contact Leisa Liddelow here: dish@stjohnswahroonga.org.

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