IT'S not that long ago that Ipswich Food Barn manager Cameron Nichol was desperate and jobless.
Having been assigned to the Darling St charity as part of a Work for the Dole program, he quickly found out that he had a passion for helping others through tough times.
Along with fellow Food Barn volunteer Ben Kimber, Mr Nichol started putting in extra hours on top of his dole obligations and quickly became an integral part of the self-funded charity service, which not only provides food for Ipswich's battlers, but also provides a friendly place to chat, play pool or just relax.
"I was painting walls and packing hampers and talking to a lot of street kids - kids that are coming through the juvenile justice system," Mr Nichols said.
"I loved it - I was doing 12 hours a fortnight for Work for the Dole and then volunteering more time on top." Few were more impressed than managing director Kerrod McQuaker, who enlisted Mr Nichol as a manager after noticing his work ethic early on.
"Cameron and Ben are a new breed of young people," Mr McQuaker said.
"They just want to work and I find them to be genuine."
Funding can be difficult to come by, with the Food Barn surviving on donations and occasional government grants.
The State Department of Communities recently provided $15,000, which was promptly used to purchase new fridges, freezers and shelving for food.
There is more work to be done yet - the Food Barn desperately needs a refrigerated truck to transport fresh meat.