Graeme Banks: Mama Lana's Community Foundation
Graeme’s five days a week are ‘just the Australian way’
When Graeme Banks’ granddaughter started school, his childminding duties reduced considerably, leaving him with free time on his hands.
“I wasn’t going to sit back and watch Days of Our Lives, so I went online to look up local charities that I could volunteer for,” says Graeme, 73.
By chance, he came upon Mama Lana’s Community Foundation, a Penrith-based charity that provides hot meals, bedding, toiletries, care and assistance to the homeless and disadvantaged six nights a week at a facility known as the White House.
He started by serving meals one night a week. But over the past two years, his commitment has grown to be on hand five days a week for anything from deliveries to collecting food and writing grant applications.
“It’s such a great charity - it helps so many people. We are all volunteers, so every cent raised for the charity goes to those who need it most,” he says.
One of his proudest achievements has been finding ways to source food and groceries for free from supermarkets involved in food recycling campaigns.
And his most touching experience came after helping a man who had been living in his car for two years move into a flat, with the assistance of Mama Lana’s Community Foundation.
“I’d helped him move all his goods into the apartment and when we were finished, it started raining,” Graeme recalls.
“He turned to me and said: ‘Thanks so much. I’ll be dry tonight.’
“That was one of the most moving moments of my time volunteering.”
Graeme feels humbled to be a Westfield Local Hero.
The charity will use the $10,000 Westfield Local Heroes grant to pay for utilities for more than a year and for ongoing vehicle running costs.
“I feel so grateful for this support but I really hope that I represent all the volunteers around the place, all of those people who give their utmost because that is the Australian way. It’s what we do,” says Graeme.