The true meaning of friendship


Standing at the entryway to Warners Bay Baptist Church, it is clear to see just how many lives the ministry has touched through its Food & Friendship program.

The room is a buzz for the program’s 10th anniversary high tea celebration, with more than 150 people filling the church.

Volunteers hastily set more tables to welcome guests as they file in. Hugs are exchanged, tears of joy are shed.

Next door, the low-cost grocery store and café enjoys a moment’s silence.

But it’s not usually quiet. During any given week, Food & Friendship welcomes up to 100 or more shoppers, all of whom find respite in the conversations and interactions that take place there.

The charity operates as an agency of Foodbank NSW & ACT, selling fresh fruit and vegetables, milk, bread, cereals, pasta, condiments, snacks and frozen food at minimal cost for low-income earners and families.

Volunteer Max Smith is the jack of all trades behind the packed bags of produce, having been involved with the program since it outgrew its premises at Cardiff eight years ago and moved to Warners Bay.

He said the program, largely delivered by manager Rani Prasad-Ferris and her army of 35 volunteers, was built on the foundation of caring for others.

“That’s all people want, is to be cared for,” he says.

Fellow volunteer Sharon Stoddard can certainly attest to that, being at the frontline of pastoral care for the past three years.

She’s the one people come to to get things off their chest.

“A lot of them have gone through a lot of difficulty, and they come for the fellowship,” she says.
“It’s amazing, you get blessed by their stories.”

The ministry is far from insular. Mrs Prasad-Ferris has made it her life’s work to see to it that the church and its programs form part of a wider network to help those doing it tough.

It regularly partners with a raft of charities, ranging from homelessness to disability services, as well as local high schools and Lake Macquarie council.

Currently, anyone can shop at Food & Friendship. And, who knows – you might pop in for a loaf of bread and stay for a cuppa.

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