By Immediate Past President John Wall, Rotary Club of Melbourne South

Empower Australia operates food relief centres that are open to anyone who is facing serious food insecurity. There are five relief centres across Melbourne: City Road, Lower Plenty, Ringwood, Pakenham and Grovedale (Geelong).  Approximately 80 volunteers work at the City Road venue with 150 volunteers in total across all five sites.

As at 11th October 2020, Empower Australia provided the equivalent of 747,000 meals, compared to 104,583 in 2019; and, 36,951 volunteer hours compared to 13,273 in 2019. In the last week of October, Empower supported 2,493 people and up to 3,000 in previous weeks.

Empower receive food from Food Bank, OzHarvest, Fareshare, McCains and SecondBite. They support Camp Quality, Mother’s Groups, Refugees with English as a Second Language, South Melbourne Primary School (with venue facilities), World Vision, and Prison Fellowship.

Since 1st July this year, Rotary Melbourne South and Rotary Brighton North have donated $4,620 to Empower. Rotary Melbourne has donated a further $500. These funds have been used to purchase essential pantry items such as oil, pasta and rice.

Rotary has also sourced donations of shopping bags, face masks and hand sanitiser through Donations in Kind, Rotary Club of Wyndham and Australia Post. Clothing (new jeans along with winter gloves), has been donated for Empower’s youth projects.

Next year, Rotary Melbourne South will approach its members to volunteer, and in the long-term, fundraise to purchase coolers ($2,500+ each) for the City Road Centre to store goods received outside the weekly drop-off period.

Empower is currently in the planning stages for their annual Christmas Appeal and would love to hear from any Rotary club interested in donating gifts for children, money to buy gifts, or purchasing an "Empower Giving Tree" with "Giving Tree Christmas Tags" that people can take to also donate gifts.

Last year Empower was able to donate over 3,000 Christmas gifts to children in need. This year, along with their partners, their aim is to donate 5,000 gifts. Let’s help them achieve this goal!

To find out more about Empower Australia, go to: https://www.empoweraustralia.com.au/