Get into the festive spirit and help out a local community group this Christmas.

For the last three years, local group Community Friends has been giving out about 1000 meals every week to 70 to 90 homeless or at-risk people who collect food for themselves and others. Sourcing food from Foodbank, Secondbite, Oz Harvest and Creative Cuisine, after their 4pm start food is usually gone by 4.15pm!

“The best thing about helping with Community Friends is that we make an immediate difference to the lives of homeless people and those at risk of homelessness with our weekly food giveaways,” says Sherrin Hearn of Community Friends. “Research shows that giving to others gives meaning to our lives. There is nothing like the satisfaction of giving your time and a friendly word to someone who has had neither in their lives for a very long time.”

On 11 December a barbershop quartet will perform at the food giveaway in Small Park (155 Boundary St West End) to create a festive atmosphere and on Christmas Day a free Christmas lunch will be held in the park.

“Last year we had approximately 100 people show up and as many volunteers and donors. It was a huge success!” says Hearn of the Christmas lunch. ”The biggest challenge for the homeless at Christmas time is pretty much the same as the rest of the year – isolation usually due to mental illness, lack of stable accommodation, lack of support networks and a general feeling of hopelessness which affects their decision making.”

To help out you can hold a fundraising event, make a tax deductible donation or collect and donate non-perishable items – mobile phones and plastic bags are in high demand.

“Those who are poor and with mental illness find it difficult to plan ahead and make good decisions. All their energy is taken up with the here and now,” says Hearn.

“Our clients always surprise us with how they live their day-to-day lives. For example, at one of our food giveaways one of the women we helped mentioned how she hadn’t had electricity since August! If you can’t afford these thing you just have to live without.”

Community Friends meets every Wednesday afternoon in Small Park, 155 Boundary Street, West End. To become involved check out their Facebook page.