GEOFF Thomson doesn’t care much for contemporary music. He reckons the lyrics are no good. Give him songs from The Beatles or The Rolling Stones any day.
So don’t be surprised if you find him humming one of their famous tunes while he’s sorting bread donations during his weekly stint as a volunteer for food charity Matt’s Place.
“This sounds like an old bloke talking, but the music then had greater structure,” he said. “It told stories that you could see in your mind’s eye. A lot of that, I think we’ve lost.”
At almost 80, Mr Thomson hopes he might be forgiven for being a little cynical – but he knows he can count on his weekly stint volunteering to grant him a far deeper perspective.
He is among a dedicated team of volunteers who give their time at Matt’s Place to ensure the free weekly community meal program in Cheltenham and Chelsea continues to support those in need.
Mr Thomson said it was a role he cherished.
“There is a real purpose to the work we are doing,” he said.
“Knowing you are helping people who are less fortunate. There are people out there who are hungry and down on their luck, and they are deeply appreciative of any help they can get, so we do our level best to provide that as much as we can.
“Almost without exception the people really appreciate what we do.”
Matt’s Place was first established by the Kingston Interchurch Council after a local need was identified.
It is now managed by Bayside Community Care, the benevolent arm of Melbourne’s Bayside Church.
General manager Sandra Cavallo said it was the dedication from volunteers like Geoff and his wife Louise which helped ensure the service continued.
“Each and every week we have so many staff who chip in and make a real difference,” Ms Cavallo said.
On any given Tuesday, you’ll find Mr Thomson sorting loaves while Mrs Thomson helps set the pace in the kitchen. Team leader Jaqueline Hendrey leads a crew including cook Jo Robertson, Cameron Galland on wash up and set up duty, Ken Elvey on coffees and teas while Barb Cook and Nola Simpson wait on tables.
Last year Matt’s Place volunteers served up 17,000 meals to more than 6200 people in need. A food bank also provides weekly staples so clients never leave empty-handed.
Mr Thomson said it wasn’t just about providing food.
“Every now and again you speak to somebody and their story could almost make you weep,” Mr Thomson said.
“They have gone through hard and sometimes very cruel times.
“It offers real perspective for anybody having a bad day and it’s meaningful to know we are all playing a part in helping people forge a better path.”
Some days, Mr Thomson even ponders the words of one of his preferred music greats.
“It was John Lennon who said `Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans’,” Mr Thomson said.
“I think that rings true whether you’re a volunteer or somebody who needs a helping hand.
“So I go around each table every week and have a chat while clients are enjoying their meals. Some have become good friends and we are always happy to see each other. That in itself is a really fulfilling role to have.”
To find out more about volunteering at Matt’s Place see baysidecommunitycare.com.au or call 03 9585 2455