Soup for all
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Putting any troubles aside for four hours one evening a week is how Charles King gives his time to the St Vincent de Paul Society's Matthew Talbot Fitzroy soup van.
Charles got involved with the soup van after reading an article about it in the newspaper in 2003.
I'd always considered doing something like this, and to read about it along with having a phone number to call prompted me to do something.
A night working for the soup van starts in North Melbourne where volunteers prepare the food and load the vans. They then travel around arriving regularly at street stops to meet people and serve food. These range from small stops with groups of 10 – 15 people waiting, to the busiest in Fitzroy where there can be 50 – 60 people. As well as the stops, they go into boarding houses and visit people at their doors.
I find that on any given night we always see regular people who we go back several years with, plus people we have never seen before and may never see again.
Working on the soup vans means spending a fair part of the night on your feet, working until about 10:30pm. Charles says it's not overly difficult, essentially going around town meeting people, talking and serving food, but it does get busy.
The most rewarding part of volunteering for the soup van for Charles is the feeling of doing a small bit for the community his own way.
I volunteer on the soup van because at this stage of my life I have the time to spare and I like catching up with the people we visit as well as the other volunteers.
I don't think many of us really think we are out there completely changing people's lives, but we do get to have a talk and extend a sense of community while catching up with people, at what is generally a happy time of their day.
The other thing is it gives me a real connection with this city, in a different way to say, going to sport events or restaurants and so on. There are regulars who have been at the street stops and boarding houses for several years, who we get to know pretty well. When I am out, or on the tram I often see people from our street stops and have a chat, which is always nice.