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Building Community, One Plate At A Time

Written by Siobhan Moylan

Like our members, Nextdoor staff are passionate about building stronger communities and lending a helping hand, which is why we launched Nextdoor’s Global Volunteer Day. It’s a day when we come together as colleagues around the world… from the US to Europe and down to Australia, to spend a day away from the office paying it forward. 

Having just joined Nextdoor Australia as the Head of Communications and PR, it was also a wonderful opportunity to get to know my new team. 

We spent the day at The Exodus Foundation where we prepared for lunch service, served food and drinks, and washed dishes for the 200+ people who dropped in. Some are living on the streets, others are facing the loneliness epidemic that has hit Australia, and some are just in need of a little social interaction.  

It was important to us to find an organisation that shared Nextdoor’s core values, and we certainly found that in the Exodus Foundation. The Foundation is the brainchild of the Reverend Bill Crews who is not only a much loved member of the Ashfield community, but has also been included in the National Trust of Australia‘s 100 “National Living Treasures” list. To top it off, Bill is also a member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his services to the disadvantaged and his work with homeless youth. 

The Foundation is one of Sydney’s largest frontline charities and runs the Loaves & Fishes free restaurant, serving 800 meals to the needy every day. Aside from its fully functional clinic offering a full range of clinical services including a dentist, one of the other striking things about the Exodus Foundation is its unrelenting commitment to community – offering a type of interim resolution to the growing pains of loneliness and human disconnection.

It doesn’t matter if you come to the foundation for lunch because you are hungry; because you are sad, or because you are lonely; you might have a broken foot or a broken heart. Whatever the reason, everyone is welcome. 

When you enter the hall where the doors are thrown open each day, not far from the photographs of Bill and the Dalai Lama, there is a sign on a high wall that points to a kind of judgement-free-policy. Under the formidable Reverend Bill Crews’ leadership, or ‘The Rev’ as Bill is affectionately known, a culture of pure openness and acceptance has been fostered and ingrained and it’s palpable. 

We were there for just one day, but many of the volunteers (or vollies as they call themselves), do this as a regular part of life, some are retired and some aren’t, but they all do it because they want to give back and because they get to see one another. 

Some of the vollies we spoke to have been attending for up to two decades, mainly because it provides a sense of connection and friendship. The man I served food with told me he’d lost a son some years back and that staying social was important for him and his wife who was there too. Another fellow told me the friends he’d made there helped him write and share poetry; whereas before he’d kept it to himself. He was Irish just like my Dad. I told him that my Dad sometimes gets lonely; so he said to bring him along next time, and I think I will. 

Listen to Rev Bill Crews’ interview with Nextdoor Country Manager, Jennie Sager, here

Luke Buckle and Jennie Sager cleaning up after lunch

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