Freedom Care is asking for more volunteers to help people in need after its team diminished during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Kilmore-based food relief centre helps individuals and families in need access everyday groceries in times of hardship.
People are able to visit and do their grocery shopping in the Freedom Care store in Kilmore, with a family of four able to walk out with more than $120 worth of groceries.
Freedom Care helps up to 500 people each week and has seen an increase in clients due to pandemic-related job losses, but a decrease in available volunteers.
Along with its regular volunteers, Freedom Care also receives help from the Work for the Dole program and Department of Justice community service orders.
When the pandemic hit, both programs were stopped.
Freedom Care Church director and pastor Frantz Heinzelmann said because many volunteers were in their 70s, they were also sent home for their own safety.
The centre relies on donations only, to provide support, and receives groceries from Foodbank Australia, Second Bite and local supermarkets.
Between ordering stock and paying utility bills, Freedom Care costs about $150,000 a year to keep open.
Mr Heinzelmann said anyone experiencing financial difficulty was able to receive support from Freedom Care.
“For people to qualify, they need to have a Centrelink card, pensioner card or to show us that they’re in financial difficulty because some people fall down the cracks and may be waiting for three or four weeks before they get any assistance,” he said.
“If they come to us, we give them the benefit of the doubt.
“If they have a health care card or pensioner card, we give them help for a month and a half and then follow up from there. If they’re still in trouble, we help them some more.”
Volunteers are fully trained, provided with lunch and quickly become part of the Freedom Care family.
“After a couple of weeks, you’re part of the family and I think that’s one of the reasons we keep our volunteers for a long time,” Mr Heinzelmann said.
Freedom Care provides support to people in need, regardless of where they live or what they believe, and is also home to a small op shop, which also offers support to people in need, sometimes providing clothing for free.
“We’ve got people coming from Sunbury, Shepparton. When they come from Shepparton, they come with three or four families and leave with giant trolley-loads,” Mr Heinzelmann said.
To volunteer with Freedom Care or to donate, visit www.freedomcare.org.au or call 0422 599 735.