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Hidden Heroes Of Hawthorn

On the surface, Australia’s long held motto ‘the lucky country’ implies we generally live a charmed existence with few real worries compared with many other developed nations. Yet the term ‘lucky’ suggests that chance beats out any kind of planning. Despite being a relatively affluent suburb, Hawthorn residents are not immune to need and while chances are, nobody plans to rely on charity, it sure is lucky we have it.

Andrew and Stephen at the SWell Centre's Community Pantry

In the spirit of philanthropy, a great deal of local businesses incorporate charitable acts within their overall services. The Glenferrie Times investigated a handful of these unsung champions of Hawthorn and found even in tough times, generosity is not in short supply.

The SWell Centre (2 Minona St), a spiritual and wellbeing service located not far from the Hawthorn Arts Centre, started a community pantry in March this year to support people experiencing food insecurity. The pantry consists of cupboards and a refrigerator, located outside the centre in a quiet corner.

The property the pantry sits on is owned by Habitat Uniting Church, who agreed to support the initiative with space and electricity for the fridge. In general the pantry offers everything from fresh meat, fruits and vegetables to canned goods and bread. SWell general manager, Stephen explained “it is a trust-based system. People come and take what they need and sometimes leave donations for others.” Stephen added, “We encourage people who need the service to follow us on our Facebook page, which lets them know when new supplies are in.”

Many of the pantry’s donations come in from Aldi and Coles. Stephen remarks, “Traditionally, unsold supermarket foods would be thrown out and sent off to landfill. Supermarkets now are only too happy to minimise food waste.” Due to the high demand, SWell has a few basic rules to ensure fairness. They state, “only take one meat item from the freezer, and if items are few in number e.g. eggs, Coke, etc. please limit yourself to one. They are currently looking to increase the size of the pantry, with some support from Bunnings (230 Burwood Rd).

Leon from grocers The Leaf Store (728 Glenferrie Rd), also actively engages in reducing food wastage and helping others in turn. He explained that charitable acts helped him feel “connected to the local community.” Leon added, “there are so many people who donate their time to help local organisations, and while we can't donate time, we can donate our products to help raise money and to feed those who really need help.” The Leaf Store regularly donates produce that is still good, but not good enough for the shelf, to Boroondara Community Outreach in Kew.

Will and Josh at Glenferrie Gourmet Meats

Another philanthropist is Josh, manager of Glenferrie Gourmet Meats (720 Glenferrie Rd). The butcher has been donating meat to local schools, as well as providing meat packs for charity raffles and fundraising events in the area since 2003. Similarly, Bakers Delight (748 Glenferrie Rd) has long been supporting local schools by donating bread products to sell at fundraiser events. This local focus is along with Bakers Delight’s national partnership with Breast Cancer Network Australia.

A business's size and backing does not have to be a barrier to its contributing power. Tracy at fashion boutique Callipso One (1/818 Glenferrie Rd) tirelessly runs a highly successful annual charity fashion show to raise money for breast cancer support services. She says, “It’s very much a local group effort. Rajna from GIGI Instyle (766 Glenferrie Rd) assists me in the co-ordination of the event and provides models and hair and make-up on the night.” The last event in October 2022 was hosted by Osteria 20 (818 Glenferrie Rd) for 130 guests; they raised $5,500 for their cause.

Tracy and Rajna hosting a fundraiser

While it is not possible to capture every charitable act by businesses within our midst, these deeds remind us how, behind the scenes, there are a plethora of conscientious givers in our community. Of course we all hope that we will never need them, but it is a comfort knowing they are there when we do.

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