Foodbank volunteers ready to serve the community 

Vine Church in Yass gathers every Sunday for a service, but they also do an excellent service for the community. The Vine Church has been running food care in Yass for the last six years helping people to feed their families.

The couple behind Foodcare in Yass is Gary and Raylene Brown who are both Pastors at Vine Church. They inherited the job from Mrs Brown’s late father who started the congregation once a month. Pastor Gary has been presiding over Vine Church for the past 18 years and said it is a full-time commitment. Impressively he is also a Commander in the Australian Navy for the past 47 years and a director of ConneXions International Group who ordained him in 2000.

Six years ago, Gary felt there was something he needed to do for the community. He stumbled upon the idea of Foodcare which was happening elsewhere, and it struck him that this was a service that Yass needed.

At the time the Vine Church would meet at 66 lead street in Yass on a Sunday for their weekly services. They would then reconfigure the space to support the Foodcare initiative held on Thursdays. After they built their new Church at 11472 Wee Jasper Road, Yass in 2015, the Foodcare service permanently took up space in Lead Street.

In the six years that Foodcare has been operating, they have had 584 different members, with around 40 to 60 using the service every week. Membership is currently two dollars for a year.

“Not every member comes each week and some people don’t need it anymore,” said Pastor Gary. “We started the service and found there was a huge need for it in town. It also provides a social hub for the community.”

Foodbank volunteers ready to serve community L-R Pastor Gary Brown and Volunteer Kevin Mitchell

Foodcare is in partnership with Foodbank in Sydney and pays for whatever goods they receive from them. They also receive a lot of support locally from Woolworths, Aldi and IGA. Volunteers stock the shelves and sell the food on Thursdays to the public.

Two of the passionate volunteers that help at Foodcare are Kevin Mitchell and Mel Banks. Mr Mitchell started on the social side looking for fellowship while Ms Banks was a member who used the service. They both see the value in what the Vine Church is doing and became volunteers to give back to the community.

“The smiles on peoples face when you can give them something important that helps them is truly a great thing,” said Mr Mitchell.

“It’s so incredible to know there is help in town and you are not alone,” said Ms Banks.

Foodcare provides staple foods and personal essentials, and you are encouraged to spend eight dollars to be eligible for a hamper at the end of your shop. This hamper will include free fruit, veggies and bread. There is no waste at the store; any unsold goods that reach an expiration date are used to feed livestock.

“We are here to serve the community. We are dedicated down to earth Christian people and believe serving the community is what God would want us to do,” said Pastor Gary.

Foodcare provides a tremendous social hub as well where you can seek out support and companionship. You do not need to be religious to use the service, and no one will preach or push religion onto you. The main aim is to help people who require assistance in feeding themselves and their families.

“We are blessed to be able to provide this. Over the years, we have had 30-40 volunteers, and at the moment we have around 12,” said Pastor Gary.

Foodcare relies on grants and donations to survive and gets a lot of support locally. The Commonwealth Bank and the Soldiers Club are big supporters. Foodcare is a Not for Profit organisation and has deductible gift recipient status so people can claim donations on tax.

Vine Church is an ample space that can be hired for a range of events such as weddings or funerals. It has a commercial kitchen, tables and chairs for a café set up, bathrooms, play equipment outside, and various other spaces inside that make it very diverse and family-friendly.

Pre COVID it could seat upwards of 200 people for service; however, with current restrictions, it can host 90 people inside. The services on Sunday are live-streamed, which provides an option to watch online as well as attend in person.

In the past, Vine Church would host Christmas dinners for anyone who wanted to attend and had guest upwards of 230 for free. Local businesses such as the butcheries and local people donate food which is used for the dinner. Every child under 12 receives a new gift, and there are 30 hampers to be won just by attending.

Due to COVID restrictions, this event is unlikely to take place this year, but the Vine Church is discussing other options to supplement their community involvement.

Foodcare is currently open from 10 am until 5 pm but from the first week of November will begin opening until 6:30 pm. They hold a service at the Vine Church every Sunday at 10 am.

By Ryan Betts