James Collins: St Paul's Anglican Church Parish Pantry
For James, giving is largely about the dignity of the recipient
When people say James Collins is always there for those in need, they’re not exaggerating.
He’s available 24 hours a day to provide counselling and support, often working 20 hours across a range of charitable projects run out of St Paul’s Anglican Church.
A renowned part of this is Parish Pantry, which provides free food to those who need it.
It began out of an office, but as more people came to the church for help, an expansion was necessary.
“We could no longer fit, so we got a shed,” says James.
“We fitted it out like a minimart to give people autonomy. Now it’s gone from a little supermarket to more like a café. We’re about to branch out to coffee and soups.”
The project is not just about providing food but giving people a sense of dignity and belonging.
“People have to swallow their pride coming to this. We treat them with love and respect,” says James.
“I’ve made it very clear with donations of food and clothing: don’t give anything you wouldn’t eat or wear, or I’ll throw it out.”
James also helped set up the Lifejacket program to secure donations of winter clothing for those sleeping rough, which has now expanded to source torches, sleeping bags and toiletries.
His other endeavours include visits to residents of aged care homes who may be socially isolated, organises a free toddler-care program with a focus on helping single mothers and runs a free musical concert program at the church that is open to all.
James is grateful to be voted a Westfield Local Hero. It is “truly wonderful”, he says.
The Parish Pantry will use the $10,000 Westfield Local Heroes grant to increase its stock. By purchasing additional storage, for example a large refrigerator, we can expand the service by offering a greater range of fresh vegetables and dairy products. The number of people requesting help is steadily increasing. Over the last month the total has reached 100 per week. The need keeps growing and we won’t turn people away if there is any way to help them.
“We run on what God and people provide, so I’m very grateful for this gift. It will help us expand in quantity and in style,” says James.
“We give away twice our income to help the poor, which is not good economics. This grant is a godsend.”