By Jennifer Haines
“It is important for churches to give a damn about people in their time of need,” says Reverend Justin Campbell at the official opening recently of Riverside Corner Store, an initiative of Riverside Church to provide low cost food and hospitality to residents in the Ermington area.
Councillor John Chedid, of Parramatta City Council, says the project “provides a vital service to the local community that is made more significant because it is done by locals”.
Riverside Corner Store was developed in response to a Community Needs Assessment Study, conducted by the Church, that identified poverty as the most significant issue facing residents in the Ermington area. Australian Bureau of Statistics data confirms that Ermington has a higher than average unemployment rate and lower than average income levels.
“The Corner Store project is a tangible way we can help families who are struggling,” Reverend Campbell says.
The store, which had been operating for six months leading up to the official opening, already has over 140 local residents registered as clients. Brian Willoughby, the store manager, says many of the store’s clients are from low income areas, residents “who through various reasons have fallen on hard times”. He says the aim is to help people by providing low cost food, but also to “create a safe, happy place, where people are not judged”.
“I look forward to coming here every fortnight,” says Pauline Kinlock, of Rydalmere. “I like the association with the people. They are so friendly, warm, and helpful. And I love it because I can get so much more quality food and some special treats which I couldn’t otherwise afford.”
The store is staffed by a team of 10 volunteers, all retired local residents. Mr Willoughby sees them as vital to the success of the project. “I am incredibly grateful to the volunteers who are so willing to give up their time, and don’t miss a week.”
The experience is mutually beneficial. Volunteer Harry Snodgrass says, “I feel good about volunteering because it does contribute something to the lives of those who come in.”
At the official opening, David Moutou, Community Capacity Building Manager of Parramatta City Council, said: “I don’t know if you are aware of how special it is to get something like this up and running. A lot of people think about helping others, but you’ve actually made it happen. Well done.”