The Christmas holiday period is challenging for those dealing with issues of homelessness and family breakdown associated with mental health and substance abuse. Many of the guests at Soul live separated from family members and anxiety related to this grief is even more evident at this time of year.
Newcastle Coal foundation Community Program contributed $8,500 towards the Soul Cafe ‘Christmas with Soul’ Project. The purpose of the project was to address the needs of the vulnerable in the Newcastle and to support the volunteers who serve them. Specific aims included:
AIM 1: To place value on the volunteer workforce.
AIM 2: To support the vulnerable to celebrate Christmas.
AIM 3: To provide food packs during the holiday period.
The generosity of NCIG and other community donors helped Soul Cafe achieve all these aims.
On the weekend of the 3-4 Dec the staff of Soul Cafe decorated the whole cafe with lights, Christmas trees and decorations. These were purchased with a view to reuse these in future Christmas periods. The cafe looked truly amazing!
5 DECEMBER THE VOLUNTEER CHRISTMAS PARTY
Invitations to the volunteer Christmas Party were sent out to all 100+ Soul Cafe Volunteers and the services that volunteer to support the guests throughout the year. This was a canape and drinks event that was held on an extremely hot summer evening, 60 volunteers attended, speeches were made and awards given to honour the volunteers.
20 DECEMBER SOUL CAFE GUEST CHRISTMAS PARTY
After installing fans to try and cope with the heat in the cafe the Soul Cafe Guest Christmas Party was a huge success. Guests cued outside Soul Cafe to participate some of them for hours. Over 3 sittings almost 300 people were served Christmas dinner. Each sitting ran for about 90 minutes and while Christmas Carols were played the guests enjoyed Christmas ham, turkey, veges and pudding with all the trimmings, thanks to Newcastle Limousines and the many community donors to Soul Cafe. This was served up by an incredible team of about 40 volunteers who worked solid from 8am in the morning through to 3pm in the afternoon.
Santa arrived and guests were able to take as many children’s Christmas gifts as they could carry and each adult was given an NCIG Christmas Hampers. Many of the guest estranged from their children lined up to Santa to collect gifts to bring to their children at Christmas access visits.
- 250 NCIG Hampers handed out containing Christmas treats such as pudding, chips, chocolates and other goodies.
- 150 Men’s hygiene gift packs courtesy of ‘Kiwanis’
- 100+ Women’s hygiene gift packs courtesy of ‘Curves’ and ‘Share the Dignity’.
In total 800 + gifts, hampers & toys were given at the guest Christmas lunch.
27 & 29 DECEMBER HOLIDAY BREAK
The period between Christmas and New Year can be a very difficult time for those on the street due to many of the services that they normally access being closed down for the holiday period. In previous years Soul Cafe has also closed down during this time in part due to our volunteers workforce also taking a well earned time out.
With the assistance of NCIG sponsorship we were able to open in a strategic way, on the 27th and 29th December we opened for 2 special lunch services from 11am to 1pm where guests could come in for a coffee and pick up food packs and frozen meals.
During that period 133 people doing if pretty tough came in and received food packs plus around 300 frozen meals given away.
Soul Cafe exists to serve the vulnerable of the community through the generosity of the community. NCIG was the major sponsor of the ‘Christmas with Soul’ Project however there were many other contributors large and small including ‘Newcastle Limousines’, ‘Kiwanis’, ‘Curves Wallsend’, ‘Salvation Army Toy Drive’,individual / family donors and Soul volunteer labour. All these groups and people made up the ‘Soul $’ component of the expenses for this project.
“A lady who has been taking people off the street and giving them shelter in her own house attended our Soul Christmas Lunch. She has not celebrated Christmas for 10yrs after her children were removed. With tears in her eyes she explained what it meant to celebrate Christmas again this year at Soul.”
“A mum with a young 1 year old son were very moved at the Christmas Lunch. She told me that she had several hard years with her partner and this was the first Christmas she can remember full of joy.”
“A bloke currently living on the street, due to criminal past, was so emotional yesterday as he thanked Soul for the Christmas lunch. He said he felt loved and accepted. He said, “I don’t have family, but we (Soul Cafe Team) are his family.”
“Many of our guests have expressed their thankfulness for the Christmas Lunch. The decorations, great food, Santa giving presents and overall team effort was incredible.”
“Staff from Westpac downstairs from the cafe (a partner of Soul Café who provide the venue) reported seeing guests with “armfuls of gifts and food packs, staggering down the street under their load” they reported that Christmas at Soul has always been great but that this year it had gone to a “new level’.”
We thank Newcastle Coal Foundation, Newcastle Limousines, Kiwnais and generous donors throughout the community for their support of Soul Cafe Christmas 2017.
CEO Soul Café www.soulcafe.org.au
PO Box 686, Newcastle NSW 2300
Mobile: 0404 038 000