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Paying it Forward

Bundaberg people truly have put their money where their mouth is with their support behind a local Pay It Forward initiative. More than 530 sandwich vouchers have been purchased and handed out to people who are homeless or struggling between pay cheques each week.

In November 2015 Alowishus Delicious and IMPACT’s Street Outreach Service teamed up to help those in need. Owners of Alowishus, Tracey and Michael McPhee, promote a strong ethos of community support and so the Pay It Forward voucher ingenuity was inevitable. “At Alowishus, we believe if we want to see change, we have to be that change. That's why giving back is a big part of what we do, and helping on a local level means we get to witness that change,” said Tracey. “For the support we put forward though, it is our customers who are the ones that make it happen, we just put it out there. I love that Alowishus is a vehicle that enables the entire community to give back. Mostly, people want to help, but they’re unsure how to do it, I think we’ve made it easy and affordable for people to contribute.”

Alowishus suggest just a $4 donation, which equates to one sandwich or toastie voucher, they subsidise the remaining cost of any sandwich. The vouchers are then handed out to people that the Street Outreach volunteers meet. From the 539 vouchers already paid forward, 388 have been bought in store, 27 have been purchased online, 84 came via donations from Moncrieff Entertainment Centre’s fundraising efforts and Alowishus have put forward a further 40 after the national CafeSmart event in August.

IMPACT Street Outreach coordinator Cristel Simmonds says it is so much more than just a sandwich to the people who receive them. “Yes, it is a meal, often the only one for some people, but it means a lot more to them than just food in the long run. They have a chance to connect and feel part of their community, they get to attend a popular café, they get to communicate with staff where they are not judged, where they are accepted. Many people who use these vouchers are lonely and socially isolated, they benefit greatly from that basic interaction. Something as simple as a sandwich can mean so much more to people who have less than most.” Recipients of the vouchers can order straight off the menu and are welcome to dine in or take away, which ever they are most comfortable with.

The Outreach Van is a vital community service that offers people a safe and trusted contact and gateway to other services and advocacy advice. Volunteers help deliver the service twice a week in Bundaberg with the aim of connection, conversation, and compassion. The van carries Street Swags, blankets, warm drinks, vouchers and essential items such as toiletries and sanitary items that can all make someone more comfortable, especially if they’re sleeping rough.