Standing 6’4 tall with a heart for lending a helping hand, Geoff is a volunteer that stands out at BaptistCare HopeStreet Port Kembla.

Geoff didn’t start his journey here voluntarily however, after being his father’s carer for eight years, he was placed on work for the dole.

“With my medical history, issues with my heart and cancer and all that, I thought I would go on a disability pension, but they put me on the dole and placed me at BaptistCare HopeStreet Port Kembla three and a half years ago.”

Over the years, Geoff has had the opportunity to build strong relationships and connections at HopeStreet. He’s also had some time to reflect on the views he once held and the differences between himself and those he feels privileged to serve.

“You always drive past but I’d never been in and didn’t know what people did. There’s a stigma where people don’t know what the hell goes on, right? Like me, I didn’t know what went on here,” said Geoff.

“It really was an eye opener. At first, you’re conscious of the people off the street, but they’re just decent people. I went in and started getting to know everyone and I thought, this is alright,” said Geoff.

Geoff is delighted to be a key part of the HopeStreet team delivering non-judgemental support to those in need. “On a daily basis I see help happening with no judgement attached and I feel good that I can help. Like going through clothes and helping them find something if they need it, toiletries and stuff like that.”

“I notice the difference in myself in understanding who they are. I’ve had everything in my life available to me. Then you see people do it real tough. I got a better start in life. Others got the wrong side of the street. And their lives are different because of that.”

During his role as his father’s carer over eight years, Geoff experienced isolation and a lack of community connection. Without HopeStreet, Geoff would not have social connection and friendships he depends on today.

“When I turned 66 and accessed the pension, I asked Di [HopeStreet Manager] if I can still work here and she said yes. I do that for myself. If I didn’t work here I would really miss it, the people here.”

“Everyone gets to know you and they love to talk to you. I feel I’m very much part of a community. I live in Port Kembla, so I go to the shops, the newsagent, a local cafe. Every time I walk down the street one of our clients will say, “How are you going today, Geoff? What’s for lunch?”

People are open and very friendly with me.”

After an extensive amount of planning and preparation, BaptistCare HopeStreet Port Kembla held its official opening at its new location at 27-29 Wentworth Street in Port Kembla on Friday 23 October.

The recent move has opened doors and created pathways for community members experiencing food insecurity and income disruption due to the pandemic, as well as existing clients who live on the margins every day.

Geoff confirms there are many new faces and more convenience in the location. “It’s more accessible here in town, and it’s a very nice place. There’s more room and it’s more practical now, we’re all together in one space, the kitchen is not separated from the eating areas,” said Geoff.

“More people now know about it. Some people just come once or twice a week, they feel more relaxed to be here connecting during a time of isolation and disconnect. It gives them a place to come for a meal, or to pick up food and vegetables that we give away.”

BaptistCare HopeStreet Port Kembla, formerly known as Darcy House in its old location on Old Port Road, has been providing hope to the Port Kembla community since 2006.