GOLD Coast charity Plus One Care has served up a staggering 20,000kg of food this year to struggling members of the community amid surging demand for its crisis care, counselling and work skills programs.
The support agency has reached out to the community to help raise $35,000 to fund much-needed upgrades to its kitchen facilities in order to continue providing food hampers and meals to local families and individuals experiencing hardship.
Growing need has driven Plus One Care from its humble beginnings in 1993 with a couple of volunteers serving meals to the homeless out of the back of a truck to its current premises in Reedy Creek.
“This year particularly we’ve noticed a huge ramp up,” says Jim Anderson, Plus One Care executive director.
“In January / February; we were helping 270 families. It started to climb around April up to the four hundreds and then by August, well over the five hundreds.
I think there’s a number of things going on,” he continues.
“In the current economy we’ve seen a lot of small business folding and people losing their jobs of twenty or thirty years and finding themselves suddenly unemployed. Increases in utilities, school fees, some of the demands like laptops for students and all this sort of things. When it’s either pay your bills or lose your utilities, food suffers, but it’s the biggest necessity.”
While Plus One Care helps a range of families in various situations who are struggling with food, they also provide counselling services and skills workshops in order to try and end the dependency cycle.
“That’s a really important message,” Jim states.
“Our whole philosophy is making a difference one person at a time, even now we’re getting more and more focused on our other services. We’re empowering people so they can again become positive contributors in the community. Unconditional acceptance is the culture here, we don’t judge folks, we want to empower people to take responsibility for this situation help facilitate that.”
Around thirty volunteers currently undertake the mammoth task of helping the centre’s ever-expanding client base, including three accredited counsellors and a dedicated cook who uses all the donated ingredients to whip up tasty, nutritious meals which can easily be frozen. The Reedy Creek property also contains a large op shop which is also run by volunteers, and is the main source of income of Plus One Care. The charity receives little funding and relies heavily on the generosity of the local community, including tradespeople who have assisted with donating their services at the property.
“Just through people’s generosity we were able to put carpet through the place,” says Jim.
“Local tradespeople have helped us out with painting and we’ve been able to beautify the place a bit. They’re the sorts of things that have really helped. We run Work for the Dole programs here too and we’re teaching people new work skills in tiling, landscaping.”
With the recent ramp up in demand, the most urgent issue facing the charity has become an essential kitchen upgrade. Jim describes the vision they have for the place.
“The kitchen is our last frontier. With the pressure and the volume that’s been happening we really need to upgrade our appliances and cabinetry and try and go as stainless as we can. The other side of that is that will also allow us to run some budget cooking course so we can actually teach our clients to live cheaper but healthier.”
Jim outlines the scale of the issue we face in our city.
“Homelessness on the coast is huge. We’re in a beautiful place, but behind the scenes we’ve got one of the highest suicide rates, homeless rates, depression is a big issue. We’re not trying to reproduce what everyone is doing; in our catchment area there’s not a lot of services like this. The philosophy is not to create another agency but to create a home. We’ve had a great feedback about this; that it feels like coming into someone’s home.”
There are many ways you can help to continue the great work of Plus One Care. Cash donations are always welcome through their website plusonecare.org. Tradespeople or other business who may be able to assist with the kitchen upgrade, or people who would like to otherwise volunteer at Reedy Creek can contact Jim on 5522 0802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.