If you cook it – they will come
Cire’s community hubs are putting on a Moveable Feast to celebrate Neighbourhood House Week, I was told. Breakfast at Yarra Junction, dinner at Chirnside Park. The premise was quite simple; to invite people in the community to come along and enjoy a free meal. In the days leading up to the Moveable Feast I focussed on the specifics such as what we would be cooking and how we’d get the word out about what we were doing, and how we’d set up the spaces. I was anxious that we would over cater and end up with too much food left over or worse, that we’d run out of food.
Quite new to my role at Executive Manager of Cire Community Hubs, and getting my head around all that entails, I didn’t have much time to consider much else about the upcoming feast. My amazing team at both hubs worked hard to pull it all together and I fronted up on the morning at Yarra Junction ready to serve egg and bacon rolls. And, as we fired up the barbecue and the smell of sizzling bacon wafted through the main drag of Yarra Junction, I began to see what we were actually doing.
That morning, we served 30 egg and bacon rolls in the hour we were cooking. While some people came because they knew what was happening, the majority happened to be in the right place at a great time to be offered complimentary, hot and delicious breakfast. Perhaps we saved some people from having to spend money on breakfast that morning, or an opportunity to grab something to eat because they’d forgotten to grab something as they rushed out the door that morning.
The unexpected bonus for me was the interactions – sometimes fleeting, sometimes more in depth, but equally valuable. It was a chance to meet and chat to people about the types of courses they’d like Cire to offer, or why we were doing what we were doing and share a bit about Neighbourhood House Week. Seeing people smile as our CEO ran up to cars stopped at the traffic lights to offer a breakfast roll through their car window, or getting to pat a sweet little dog called Maverick who also loved bacon – it was an extra ordinary morning for us, for Maverick, and most definitely for those who received breakfast while waiting for the green light!
Fast forward to dinnertime when we were cooking the most giant pot of spaghetti bolognese I’ve ever seen, I worried that people wouldn’t come. Our Chirnside Park Community Hub is a little off the main road which meant there would be very few people to invite to join us. We were relying on people to leave the warmth of their homes on this cold night and let us cook them dinner.
I had no reason to worry. From 6pm people started trickling in and by 6:30 we were churning out bowls of pasta at an impressive rate. Again, I could see the immediate impact and how we were able to give families a night off from cooking, and an escape from the inevitable, “What’s for dinner?”. There was lots of chatter as old friends caught up and new introductions made over a shared meal.
And, at the end of what was quite a long day and while tackling the piles of dishes that result from feeding so many people, I reflected on what the day meant and had achieved. The departing comment from one of our dinner guests nailed it: “I was having a bad day so I came along for some company. And I’m leaving with a full stomach and a smile on my face”.
My worries about what we should cook, how much food we should buy, would we get enough people through the doors suddenly all seemed so trivial. The fact that at least one person had been impacted positively made the day so worthwhile, and makes me want to do it all over again.
Executive Manager, Cire Community Hubs
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