FOOD FOR THOUGHT: New charity sets up in Grafton CBD
A NEW initiative to help stretch the dollar of Clarence Valley residents struggling to pay the bills has opened in the Grafton CBD.
Australian Community Care Network Grafton opened its doors to the public at the former site of Riverside Bargains in Prince St on Monday.
The first low-cost foodstore to be opened by the charity organisation is designed to provide a cheaper alternative to the big supermarkets for people experiencing financial stress.
"We help low income families. But because the Clarence Valley has been through fire, drought, flood and COVID, there's a lot of people that are suffering financially," Australian Community Care Network Grafton manager Alison Tomlinson said.
"So we're here for hardship, financial crisis, Centrelink recipients, anyone that's doing it hard."
People who hold a student, healthcare, pension or seniors card are eligible to utilise the service.
"But because we've been through so much hardship in the Clarence Valley, if people are not making ends meet they're more than welcome to come in here and speak to me and we'll work something out," Ms Tomlinson said.
The centre has shelves stocked with regular grocery items, as well as bulk goods to act as a distribution centre for other local charities, and will also provide items such as clothing for people in need.
It is also an outreach centre, with a pastor, Albert Schembri, on site ready to offer support to those doing it tough.
"Our member value includes us being here for you," Ms Tomlinson said.
"Albert's here on the floor if anyone wants someone to talk to. We're all here for that."
Ms Tomlinson, who previously managed FoodCare in Grafton, was handed the opportunity to start the initiative by Abundant Life Church pastors Russell Jones and Wayne Crowther based in Coffs Harbour, who run a similar foodstore called Loaves and Fishes and saw that she had "a heart for helping Grafton out".
"I've had it on my heart for a long time to get something started here in Grafton and it's only with Alison that this became possible in recent times," Mr Jones said.
"It will make a tremendous difference (to the community). It has made a big difference in (Coffs Harbour) region.
"We set it up in Coffs Harbour so that we could help people stretch their dollar further. It will have the same impact here. People who want to save money can come and get what they can here, and it will help to stretch their budget so they can meet other bills that come in.
"There's a lot of people in need in the Grafton region, and with COVID there will be a lot more in need in the future.
"I believe this type of ministry is essential for any region."
Ms Tomlinson had felt blessed as doors opened up "left, right and centre" throughout the process to turn her vision into a reality.
"God goes before us. People can't believe how quickly it's moved," she said.
"I've been driving past here for months saying 'Father, I want that shop'.
"And here we are, we're operating, and blessed abundantly."
Ms Tomlinson hoped to provide an opportunity for people to start volunteering again after the activities of many voluntary organisations were put on hold in 2020.
"The community with COVID-19 has been shut down," she said. "Volunteers have been put off left, right and centre.
"We have so much space here, and I would love to see our senior community be able to come and volunteer here with us.
"We've got brand new clothing to fold up to hand out to people in need and stuff like that. There's always something for people to do if they want to volunteer."
People interested in becoming volunteers or have further questions can contact Australian Community Care Network Grafton on 6644 1369.
Charities and businesses interested in helping the cause can contact Ms Tomlinson directly on 0457 197 427.