Ken Gray: St Patrick's College Shorncliffe Foundation
The Paddy's Van and its volunteers provide a weekly breakfast and dinner service to assist the poor and marginalised in the local community.
Over the Christmas and New Year period, an substantial amount of people required help from The Paddy’s Van.
The $10,000 Westfield Local Heroes grant allowed The Paddy’s Van to meet this increase in demand and provide food and equipment to help people in need. By offsetting costs of running the van, the team expects they will be able to purchase a second van in the next two years and provide essential services to even more people.
With tongs in hand, volunteer Ken Gray is a well-known figure at St Patrick’s College Shorncliffe’s regular outreach BBQs.
He’s neither a teacher nor a parent, but almost every week for 14 years he has gone out on the Paddy’s Van meal service to cook for hundreds of people in need across Brisbane.
In that time he has become a much-loved member of the Catholic school’s community.
“I happened to see a flyer back in 2004 and I thought, having nothing much else to do, I might as well come along. I've been involved more or less ever since," says Ken.
By tending to the BBQ, he ensures the students who go out with the service can spend time getting to know their patrons - many of whom are marginalised and homeless.
“It’s great to meet people and cook and I like doing it because it gets me out of home and gives me something to do," he says.
"And the students get a lot out of it because it gets them serving and talking to all sorts of people."
Ken is also known as a connector of people, and takes the van out even during school holidays when no-one else is available.
"If I had 10 cents for every cackleberry I’ve flipped over I’d be a very rich man but I come out and do it every week because I enjoy it more than anything else," he says.
Despite his own poor health, he has taken patrons under his wing and goes out of his way to drive them to medical appointments, arrange accommodation for them and organise life skills classes.
Ken never expected any recognition for his labour of love and sees being voted a Westfield Local Hero as a “bonus”.
“I'm just doing what I enjoy and you can't really ask more than that.”
For further information on the Westfield Local Heroes program, click here.