Archbishop Prowse helps out at Vinnies Blue Door Christmas dinner

Archbishop Prowse helps out at Blue Door’s kitchen, cutting up over 50 cooked chooks for their annual Christmas lunch

The delicious smell of roast chicken, potatoes and veggies wafted through the Vinnies Blue Door facility in Ainslee Village today in celebration of Christmas 2022.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse joined staff and volunteers in preparing the annual Christmas meal, which is just one of the daily hot lunches provided by Vinnies Blue Door drop-in centre.

Operating with the motto of people helping each other, the Blue Door facility provides free take-away meals, hygiene supplies, clothing and furniture vouchers, life skills,  advocacy and referrals to anyone in need.

With the kitchen facilities central to their service, Blue Door’s Coordinator, Paul Potter, said he was delighted to have it operational again after the recent pandemic had closed the facility for nearly two years.

“Due to COVID, we’ve had to make several changes to our service,” he said. “At the beginning of the pandemic, we had difficulty getting food supplies, so an arrangement was made with Parliament House’s kitchen to provide bulk meals, which the staff repacked and distributed.” 

Volunteer Fleur and Coordinator Paul Potter join Archbishop Prowse in Blue Door’s kitchen.

Since June this year, the Blue Door facility has reopened its kitchen, serving up nearly 140 hot lunches every weekday.

Retired public servant and now volunteer Fleur, started helping out nearly a year ago. After supporting many of Vinnies outreaches over the years, Fleur decided to assist in the kitchen and with serving meals.

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“I already have enough middle-class public servant friends in my life,” she said. “I’ve made friends and connected with people here. They have complicated lives. Many are just doing the best they can.

“I do it because I enjoy it. There are many opportunities to volunteer in Canberra, and now I’m retired, I don’t need to limit my availability to weekends.”

Blue Door is open to anyone in need and has over 1,500 ‘drop-ins’ each month. According to Mr Potter, most of those who use the service struggle with mental health and are battling severe health issues. Additionally, drug and alcohol addictions are prevalent, with many dealing with lifelong trauma.

Mr Potter has been the coordinator for almost 12 years. When asked what has kept him motivated, he quickly declared, “I love it!”

“Very early on in the job, it was challenging.,” he said. “I’m a traditional male and had very little cooking experience at the time. So many of the meals at the beginning were fairly suspect. Often I felt embarrassed at what I had served up. Then I would hear from the guys, ‘Paul, don’t worry, you’ve done the best you can.’ Where else would I get told that?” he chuckled.

Since 1983, Blue Door has been an integral part of Ainslie Village, a large community housing site in Canberra providing accommodation to approximately 200 people living on a low income. Three-quarters of the people who access Blue Door are Ainslie Village residents.

To find out more, contact (02) 6234 7391 or bluedoor.cg@vinnies.org.au

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