For almost 25 years, Good Samaritan Sister Mary Zita Duffy has found joy through providing food for people in need in inner Melbourne. Source: The Good Oil.
Sr Zita volunteers at The Collingwood Cottage, which began life as an inter-church organisation in August 1993 at St Joseph’s Parish Hall, Collingwood.
“There’s just such joy in seeing people go out with a load of food and smiles on their faces,” the chipper almost-84-year-old says.
“A lot of them don’t speak much English, but one thing they do say is ‘thank-you’. They know that word and they say it all the time.”
Initially the food bank operated from the hallway of the presbytery in Collingwood, but as a former school teacher and principal, Sr Zita soon brought her organisational skills to bear.
“I said, ‘Father, what about we use the hall? Let’s go up to the hall and organise something different’. And from there, together, we organised the show,” she says.
“One of the great things about our order is its recognition of past experiences and encouragement to use the skills you have already achieved. And one of the skills I had was ‘controlling the crowd’.”
From there, Sr Zita set about gathering volunteers around her, both from the parish, other parishes, as well as from the people who actually gathered weekly at the food bank.
“You just keep looking around and seeing who would make a good volunteer,” she says. “And some of them actually come up to you and ask if they can be a volunteer. It gives a sense of ownership and responsibility.”
The Collingwood Cottage works closely with Food Bank Victoria, an independent not-for-profit organisation which opened at Airport West a few months before The Collingwood Cottage opened.
“Our volunteers go out and collect the food from Food Bank Victoria and then other volunteers unload the van and stack the food in the storeroom or put it out for the people,” Zita says.
The van was bought with the proceeds of The Avon Woman’s Day Spirit of Achievement Award, which Sr Zita was awarded in 2000.
“We bought a second-hand van with the winnings and that was a big help,” she says.
“It has the power to bring us closer together” (The Good Oil)