Paula Nicolas: St Merkorious Charity: Westfield Local Heroes 2019
Cooking up hope and connection for people in need
Passionate. Caring. Visionary
When Paula Nicolas started cooking meals in her kitchen for six families, she had no idea her good deed would grow into a major charity that distributes thousands of meals a week.
Paula founded St Merkorious Charity in 2013 and provides cooked meals to the disabled, elderly and homeless and also supplies food hampers to people who can cook for themselves but are unable to afford essential items.
The charity also hosts free community meal gatherings in Fairfield and Rhodes, with plans to start one in Burwood.
Paula works five days a week at the charity, supported by volunteers and a small staff. “It makes me feel happy and gives me satisfaction. It makes me feel that I am fulfilling God’s work,” she says.
“We live in a world where some of us have so much, and others have so little.”
Paula feels humbled to be voted a Westfield Local Hero. “What I do is not heroic but is necessary. It is our duty to look after the disadvantaged in our society.”
The charity embraces each client on a personal level. “We chat and, most importantly, we listen. We know the stories of each and every client,” says Paula.
“Our vision is to not only relieve hunger and poverty. We also encourage people within the community to feel they are supported and not left alone,” says Paula, who immigrated to Australia from Lebanon with her family when she was 16.
Paula has received widespread recognition for her work and was Burwood Citizen of the Year in 2017 and Strathfield Local Woman of the Year in 2018 when she also won the Jesus Cares Contribution and Service Award.
Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists per Westfield centre each awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation.
St Merkorious charity will use its grant to fund thirty-eight thousand meals for the poor, which is a ten-week supply.
“The need is growing every day,” says Paula. “The grant will help us to do more and to have a bigger impact.”
For further information on the Westfield Local Heroes program, click here.