Vinnies Soup Vans operate at nine locations in metropolitan and regional Victoria. The first soup van service was established in 1975 by dedicated university students and has been operating ever since.
The soup van service is run almost exclusively by volunteers, delivering meals, hampers, friendship and support to people experiencing poverty and homelessness. Shared meals create an environment for regular, face-to-face conversations, which can help people experiencing crisis to survive, recover and ultimately regain their independence.
Our soup van services receive support and assistance from many areas of the community. Here are just some of the support we've received recently:
Moe Soup Van: Helps students focus
Margaret Wilson, co-President of the Vinnies Moe Soup Van, has been a Vinnies volunteer for 24 years and, following the halting of soup van operations due to COVID-19, Margaret and the volunteer team devised new ways to support the families they had previously assisted.
Margaret approached several local school principals with the offer to provide lunches for the students who would often arrive at school without a snack or meal. With the support of local fruiterer (Moe Fruit Market), who generously donates fresh fruit every week, our Vinnies volunteers would make a variety of sandwiches in the St Vincent de Paul Society’s kitchen hub located in Moe.
Government, independent or Catholic schools in and around both Moe and Newborough were provided with around 80–100 lunches each week. When a local resident heard of these lunch packs being distributed at the schools, they offered to also donate juice boxes for students every week.
Rebecca Harkensee, Primary Welfare Officer Moe (Albert St) Primary School, says, “A sandwich can mean the difference between a hungry and unmotivated student, to one who thrives and focuses. We truly value and appreciate everything Vinnies has done for our school.”
Practical assistance such as this helps our Vinnies Soup Vans to continue operating 365 days of the year across Victoria.
Essendon Rotary: Helping locals in need
When Essendon Rotary and the Rotary Foundation decided they wanted to help locals in need they came to Vinnies with an offer we just couldn’t refuse.
Local Essendon Rotary member Carmel said “After years of my family being involved with volunteering for Vinnies Soup Vans and knowing about how many people were suffering because of the pandemic, we just wanted to give where we could.”
And give they did! Rotary Essendon with the Rotary Foundation donated food to feed hungry people living rough in North Melbourne and the Inner City. Funds were also raised to buy new items of warm clothing, sleeping bags and blankets for when the sun goes down and Melbourne nights turn chilly, particularly when sleeping on our streets. Volunteers from Rotary then generously gave their time to pack hampers to deliver to our rough sleepers.
We are so grateful to our friends at Rotary for such generosity.
IGA: Understanding the little things
As a committed corporate partner, every month IGA donates thousands of food items that helps to feed families in North Melbourne, people doing it tough in Fitzroy, or rough sleepers in the city.
Last year, just before Christmas, we saw some incredible generosity as IGA Managing Director Jeff Harper and the IGA team delivered more than $4,400 worth of food items to our Vinnies Soup Van in Dandenong.
Jeff knows all too well the daily struggles of the people we serve in this area as his wife Linda Harper is a regular Vinnies volunteer. As Jeff said, “Owing to everything that has happened over the past year with COVID, we (Linda and I) felt there was even more of a need to help out and try and put some food onto peoples’ tables over this period.”
Our Vinnies food hampers usually have only essential food items so it means the world for our volunteers to be able to provide special treats during Christmas. Food items generously donated from Ashburton IGA and IGA Xpress include chocolate, crisps, breakfast cereals and nuts.
We value, and are grateful to, our community partner IGA who truly understands the needs in Victorian communities. And a big shout out to Jeff and his team who felt strongly enough to reach out to us.
Footscray Volunteers: Wrapping all the way!
Over the Christmas period our volunteers in Footscray wrapped thousands of presents for families and individuals in the community who have sought assistance from Vinnies throughout the year.
The gifts include cosmetics, handbags, scooters, board games, Lego and books. Our volunteers have made sure there is something special for every member of the household, and the children’s gifts are age specific.
There were so many gifts that the volunteers nearly ran out of space in the room kindly provided by the City of Maribyrnong – with them having wrapped 700 gifts on a single day. Chief elf, Footscray Conference President Lina Pahor, managed to source a couple of bicycles for children whose families had requested them. “I put a call out to other Vinnies volunteer groups and we found some! We’ll put a Christmas bow on the handle bars and deliver them next week. We got them helmets too, which were donated.”
Lina says that virtually all the gifts have been donated from local schools and businesses, for which Vinnies is very grateful. What motivates the elves? “It’s pretty special to see the joy on people’s faces when we deliver the gifts,” says Lina. “The parents in the families are thrilled to put some great presents ‘from Santa’ under the tree for their children.”