29 December 2008

Christmas breakfast

Hanno and Kerry cooking up a storm.

Voluntary work is a big part of my life now that I have the time for it. I am the co-ordinator of my local neighbourhood centre where a bunch of us volunteers work for the disadvantaged and homeless, and to provide information about various government agencies and helping hand organisations to people in our community. We also have a permaculture garden that supplements the food staples we give those who need them. I teach budgeting there, we have a sewing circle and a new knitters group and we have just partnered with our local relocalisation group to provide life skills workshops for our community. We'll teach things like vegetable and fruit gardening, worm farming, bamboo construction, bread and jam making, preserving and dehydrating and a lot more.

One of the seasonal things we do is to provide Christmas breakfast for our community. It's the one day we don't focus solely on our disadvantaged folk but instead invite our community to come together for one special meal - Christmas day breakfast. It is such a great event and all morning I meet with people happy to be there and who want to help in some way. Honestly, we had more people asking if they could help that I ever imagined. In the end, I'd say half the people who wanted to help, couldn't, and had to be content having a freshly cooked free breakfast in the warm sunshine.

Almost all the food we consumed was donated by local businesses - we had locally made yoghurt from our cheese maker and fresh milk from our local dairy, the egg farm gave us hundreds of eggs, the local butchers gave sausages and bacon. Restaurants gave juice and mushrooms, the green grocer gave fresh fruit and the local food co-op gave organic muesli. It was a feast! And it was all enjoyed by everyone who came along. Our disadvantaged folk mingled with those we didn't know so well, and most filled their bellies up and helped clean up. We catered for 500 and ran out of hot food, but we still had organic muesli, yoghurt, fresh fruit, tea and coffee to offer.

We had a couple of raffles and our donations tins ran hot. When I came home I counted up about $700 that will go towards providing more programs and services next year.

It took about a month to organise our breakfast, I worked closely with my good friend Bernadette and other volunteers, and picking up the donations, transporting it all to the park and co-ordinating the morning was really hard work. But oh the payoff. When I came home from that breakfast I was as full of the Christmas spirit as I could possibly be. I didn't have any breakfast apart from a wedge of watermelon because I was too busy talking with people who wanted to thank us for the breakfast and those who wanted to help. Representatives of our local churches came over and said hello and thanks, and a couple of people from the RSL (Returned Servicemen's League), Lions and Apex talked about how we could all help each other during the year. An older man said: "Mrs Hetzel, I'm pleased to see you have food covers this year." LOL (Our sewing circle made us net food covers.) Kids kept asking when Santa would arrive - he came on his Harley. There were people everywhere and they met people they didn't know before. It looked like everyone enjoyed themselves. I know I did.

I was really pleased that both my sons came to the breakfast. They saw for themselves that Christmas is really about giving of yourself, and that generosity is its own reward. And that's a fine thing to be reminded of in these times of crass consumerism, over indulgence and keeping up with the Joneses.

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