Vital People: Our Place volunteers help make Thanksgiving special

WatchVolunteers help Our Place dish up a Thanksgiving feast for Victoria's most vulnerable. Tess van Strraaten reports.

From trays of turkey roasted to perfection, to all the trimmings, Thanksgiving preps were underway earlier this week at Our Place Society.

“It really is about belonging,” says Grant McKenzie of Our Place Society. “When people come in and smell, they smell the food as soon as they walk in the door, it really gives them a sense of hope I think.”

Tables were adorned with special menus, each with a different message of hope from a donor.

“Thinking of you as you enjoy a warm meal and friendship with others who care,” says dining room volunteer Grayg Mitrou.

Grayg only started volunteering at Our Place a few months ago, but it’s been life-changing.

“I used to always avoid Pandora Street,” Grayg admits. “I hated Pandora Street. I hated our Place and all the people in it.”

But Grayg decided to get out of his comfort zone after taking a personal development course.

“You need to go to the places you do work, so I came here and it has been life-altering to me,” he says. “It totally changed my world because the people here are just like me.”

Margaret Schaffer’s been volunteering at Our Place for more than a decade.

“It’s important for me to give back because it is in my faith to give back and I just feel that these people need someone that cares for them and realizes that they’re not here because they want to be,” Margaret explains.

But Margaret’s first shift—back when there was less security and fighting in the dining room—tested her limits.

“When I got home that night, I had a good cry and took off all my clothes and jumped in the shower and thought, ‘will I go back?'” Margaret says. “But I did, and I’m so glad I did because there’s so many wonderful people here.”

Serving up 1,000 meals a day wouldn’t be possible without volunteers—not to mention all the other jobs volunteers help out with.

“We have just over 300 active volunteers who are vital to the running of Our Place and we just couldn’t do this job without our volunteers,” Grant says.

Our Place is so thankful for the help, and volunteers like Margret and Grayg say they’re truly thankful for the opportunity to make a difference.

“I can reach out to people, I can bring them some TLC for the time I’m here,” Margaret explains.

“It just gave me that sense of purpose in the world that we’re all connected and it’s just a beautiful thing,” adds Grayg.

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Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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