“People are struggling. Since COVID hit, we’ve never been busier.”
Darryl Groves is the pastor of the Gatton Seventh-day Adventist Church in the heart of south Queensland’s Lockyer Valley. And he is also the project manager for the ADRA Community Care Centre in Gatton.
“About seven or eight years ago, the church started a soup kitchen,” Darryl says. “Two years ago, we started a food pantry. We saw a need in our community . . . people are struggling.”
The ADRA food pantry, run by Gatton Seventh-day Adventist Church members, kicked off at the beginning of 2020. Initially, the pantry was run by eight volunteers who were providing the community with 20 emergency food hampers per week. And then, the pandemic hit.
“Through the middle of COVID we were doing about 300 hampers,” Darryl says. “On the books we were getting up to 60 to 70 volunteers coming in and helping.”
Debbie is one of the volunteers who has been regularly helping out. For the past 18 months she has been volunteering on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. And it has helped to change her life.
“I was a drug addict for 48 years,” Debbie says. “I was always rejected from society, being a heroin addict, bikie, gangster, whatever you wanted to label me.”
Debbie tried many times to break her addiction. And finally, two years ago, she was successful. But being newly clean didn’t fit with her previous social circles. She began looking for purpose and productive ways to spend her time. But most of all, she was looking to surround herself with the right support network.
“[Previously] I always ended up at churches in the soup kitchens for food,” Debbie says. “And that stuck with me.”
Debbie came across the ADRA food pantry and began to volunteer. Initially, she was apprehensive. Surrounded by new people, she didn’t know what to expect. But she found her place helping those who were seeking assistance, as she could relate to them and their stories. And by making them feel at home, soon she began to feel at home as well.
“I stayed out the back with the fruit and veggies for I was comfortable [there], and I really resonated with the hungry people coming in,” Debbie says. “I knew a lot of them because of the scene I was in, a lot of people who are homeless and hungry.”
Volunteering with ADRA gave Debbie a sense of purpose and the community she craved.
“It’s the first time in my life that I’ve been in a community,” Debbie says. “And I get respect from people.”
It also helped her reconcile her broken relationship with her son Lincoln. And now, thanks to the connections that he’s made, Lincoln is attending the Gatton Adventist Church.
“Debbie and Lincoln are such an asset to our project and yeah, people like that, we wouldn’t be able to operate without them,” Darryl says.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Gatton has experienced what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
“ADRA is ministry,” says Darryl. “You can’t separate community service from spiritual ministry because the two work hand-in-hand.
“When you have the love of God, God just moves. God’s not stationary, He’s always moving and He creates movement within us that that compels us to have compassion and empathy and sympathy. And you know, a desire to improve the lives of others is probably about the best way to try and explain it.”
The ADRA Appeal is the main source of funding for ADRA community projects in Australia. “Let Love Shine” this ADRA Appeal and help give someone the support they need to heal and rebuild their lives. Please donate at adra.org.au/shine.
Ashley Stanton is Media and Communications coordinator for ADRA Australia/NZ