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Community’s heart and soul

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It’s been a big week for Newcastle non-profit Soul Café, celebrating the addition of two new pieces of equipment to serve the city’s most vulnerable.

Civil contractors Daracon Group upgraded the Toyota Hilux ute it has loaned the charity since 2007 to a newer model, while a Pinkbox sanitary item vending machine was officially unveiled in the women’s toilets.

For more than a decade, Daracon has generously covered all vehicle expenses for the ute, including fuel and servicing.

Volunteers use it to collect rescued food, which in turn is served to the café’s guests, many of whom are homeless or otherwise disadvantaged and benefit from a hot meal and a listening ear.

This financial year alone, the ute has enabled the café to plate up more than 19 tonnes of food.

Co-founder Sue Prosser said, “Soul could not operate without the Daracon ute – it is vital to our daily operations.”

Similarly, the new Pinkbox vending machine is expected to save countless vulnerable women and girls from the indignity of having to fashion sanitary items out of toilet paper or old clothing when they can’t afford these basic necessities.

The machine dispenses one ‘period pack’ at a time, containing six tampons and two pads, free of charge.

The initiative was founded by Share the Dignity, with 100 Pinkboxes installed around Australia at schools and community centres.

Soul Café’s is one of two in the Hunter Region, the other being at The Place: Charlestown Community Centre.

“We are really thankful to be one of two local organisations chosen by Share the Dignity to receive a Pinkbox,” Mrs Prosser added. “It complements the services that we provide and the feedback from our lady guests has been very positive.”

One guest said, “It’s great to have the Pinkbox here at Soul; it makes it easy to access sanitary items when you need to and do it privately.”

Soul Café is a non-government-funded organisation that relies on community support to help those in need, providing a whole host of free services, including medical and mental health clinics, legal services and hygiene packs.

Visit soulcafe.org.au for more information.

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