If Food Assist 3223 was a “normal” business, its owners would be thrilled.

Cyclic, almost exponential expansion, a great community reputation and waves of good will are all part of why Food Assist 3223 has rapidly become an integral part of Portarlington and surrounds.

But it’s not a “normal” business.

It’s a food bank that operates to support disadvantage people within our community and – sadly – that clientele is expanding rapidly.

Rather than shy from the logistical problems that such growing demand places on limited resources, let alone its purely volunteer staff, the committee of Food Assist 3223 is doing its utmost to stay ahead of the curve.

And just like a meal for one of its clients, the key thing for that committee is to find security in being able to plan and build a future.

Which is precisely where the Portarlington Golf Club and its Community Contribution Fund enters the conversation.

President Prue Drever and her team did the maths and figured that a $3500 grant would provide the base required to provide food for the remainder of 2023, particularly through the high-demand winter months.

But so compelling and important was the case they presented, the Portarlington Golf Club broke with tradition and doubled the request, sending $7000 to what chief executive Michael Phillips described as “an incredibly important organisation to the wellbeing and comradeship of our entire community”.

“We’re not in the habit of giving more money than is requested, but the work Food Assist 3223 does around Port, Indented Head and St Leonards is nothing short of remarkable and they deserve our full support,” Phillips said.

“So we’re proud and delighted to be able to play a small part in helping Prue’s team continue to deliver a service we collectively wish wasn’t needed, but that has become critical to so many in our neighbourhood.”

Drever said her committee and volunteers were overjoyed by news of the grant.

“We just want to say a really huge `thank you’ to the golf club and its members for the support – to get double what we asked for is not at all what we expected, but it’s an enormous boost for us all,” she said.

“It’s a huge thing for us because it gives us security. We’re entirely run by volunteers and get no government funding, so we rely exclusively on community support and the generosity of people around town.

“So a grant of this size enables us to not only provide food for so many people, but to actually think about planning for what’s 12 months ahead. It also means we can focus on the core job rather than running around and trying to fund everything as we go.

“This is like winning Tattslotto for us – it takes that worry away, enables us to feed extra people and also for things we have to pay for that going up like they are for everyone, like power and heating bills. It’s amazing and we’re so grateful.”

More than 40 volunteers staff the Food Assist 3223 programs, based at the St Andrew’s Uniting Church Hall in Newcombe Street.

According to a Foodbank Australia Hunger Report, more than 2 million households experienced “severe food insecurity” in 2022. Sadly, that figure is mirrored in our own community and in the year to date, the number of visits to Food Assist 3223 is up a staggering 43 per cent.

Drever said many people in need still don’t reach out “because of the stigma still attached to asking for help”.

“It’s terrible, but with the way the economy is these days and with the cost of everything in life really just soaring, we really need to `normalise’ asking for help because so many people genuinely need it through absolutely no fault of their own,” she said.

“But some people are ashamed and really hate asking for that help, so we ask that people realise it’s OK and that we have some really friendly and wonderful volunteers who make no judgement on anyone at all. They’re here to help and know that it’s just a part of life these days, as different as it is.”

The Portarlington Golf Club has given charitable support of more than $125,000 in the past four financial years, including more than $30,000 specifically via its Community Contribution Fund.

The CCF was established to support not-for-profit community or sporting organisations to make positive improvements that will, in turn, benefit the wider community.

Phillips said the club considered many factors when allocating funds, including the potential for increased engagement of volunteers, community and participants.

“The golf club sees itself as a community leader and that it’s our duty to assist other clubs and community groups whenever we can,” he said.

“Our success as a club in the community is partly measured by the success of everybody else within the community.

“We feel we have a significant role to play in that space and are very fortunate to have a business model that allows us to support groups who don’t necessarily have access to the funds that we do.

“It’s hard to think of a more important and worthy recipient than Food Assist 3223 and we ask that all who can help them out do so whenever they can, especially with the volunteer support on which it relies.”

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Food Assist 3223 president Prue Drever surveys the St Andrews Uniting Church Hall.

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Volunteer Rhonda helps out a shopper with her selection of fresh fruit.