EAGER but orderly lines formed on Tuesday night inside the Kangaroo Flats Rotary Club as volunteers served up a Christmas in July feast.
The club has run the community meals program since 2017 but co-president Judy Kidman said demand had increased this year.
“We probably never had any more than 40 the first few years, this year we serve 70 plus every Tuesday night,” Ms Kidman said.
Ms Kidman said the program had come a long way from its beginnings and had now evolved into a supportive community.
It was started with support from Kangaroo Flats community enterprise and St John of God church.
“Some people when it first started had you know the soup kitchen mentality but it’s got a really nice feel about it now, people comment on that especially,” said Ms Kidman.
Volunteers tried a lot of things to improve the atmosphere in the beginning but credited the current community spirit to experimentation with table numbers following the COVID pandemic.
“It sounds trivial, but it really was a big deal,” Ms Kidman said.
After much trial and error, they landed on the idea that table numbers would be set and there would be a weekly lottery.
“We have a ball girl now to pull out the numbers, it’s a lucky table draw,” said Ms Kidman.
Another thing they started was to give out gold stars to the table numbers that cleared their plates after meals.
According to Ms Kidman these small efforts to create a positive environment for people encouraged a sense of fun and belonging at the program.
The community meals program also helps give volunteers a sense of purpose.
“It’s just a feel-good thing you do,” said Ms Kidman, “it’s very satisfying.”
Regular visitors at the community dinners keep returning because they enjoy the food and can find social and emotional connection.
One diner said she attended regularly to save money on food but that it was also a chance for her and her son to get out and socialise.
Another said he attended because he was able to get access to Haven Homesafe, who regularly have volunteers in attendance.
Meals are currently prepared by Kangaroo Flats Sports Club and desserts and bread are donated by Bridgewater Bakery.