Published On: 23 May 2024Categories: Stories
Chris Fabian and Rick Campbell are two of the 100 volunteers who donate their time and talent each week to the mission of Loaves and Fishes Tasmania and Devonport Chaplaincy.
From growing and collecting fruit and vegetables and serving school breakfast clubs, to student and driver mentors and kitchen and warehouse workers, volunteers are a rich source of expertise, while also annually saving the charities $200,000. 

Nurturing relationships and teamwork in pursuit of a worthy cause keep Chris Fabian and Rick Campbell volunteering in their retirement years. 

Chris, 64, from Ulverstone, and Rick, 73, from Aberdeen, started volunteering at the Loaves and Fishes Devonport warehouse in 2020, answering the call for help when COVID stopped those on work-for-the-dole and court-mandated community service orders from working.

Chris, who had retired a year earlier after 41 years with the Department of Primary Industries and the Environment Protection Authority, said he was in need of human interaction and wanted to give back to something useful.

He said he had spent the first year of his retirement year doing various maintenance jobs around the house, and was ready to be involved again in some form of community service.

Tight work unit

“We developed into a tight little unit,” he said of those early months during and post-COVID.

“I also reconnected with a former colleague, Rick Campbell, who had heard about the need at Loaves and Fishes through Rotary.”

The warehouse role includes making up emergency food hampers, sorting fruit and vegetables, unpackaging products, cleaning and tidying.

“We get through an enormous amount of work,” Chris said.

The men work one day a week, down from two in 2020.

However, they say it’s the interactions with many people from diverse backgrounds and ages, who come and go, that keeps the job interesting. 

Informal mentors

Rick said he and Chris had an informal mentoring role with the dozens of people who cycle through the warehouse fulfilling volunteer or community service orders, or in search of a traineeship or job.

“There’s a lot of interesting people,” Rick said.

“There’s a lot of talk, standing around the tubs of vegetables.

“It’s great to see people offered jobs out of volunteering, while some get training and skills, and maybe a more positive outlook on life.”

Chris said it was gratifying to see good food otherwise destined for landfill being used productively and efficiently to help others.

“I like what Loaves and Fishes does because I like to see resources used well,” he said.

“Reusing food that would otherwise go to waste is good for the planet and good for the people it helps.”

Rick said: “The longer you work here, the more aware you become of the enormous need out there.

“There are some pretty dire situations out there.”

 Rick said he was staggered at the volumes and sometimes unusual varieties of food donated to the Loaves and Fishes.

“During COVID, I remember receiving a pallet load of frozen fried eggs,” he said.

“Another time we received sugar-free peach-flavoured Coke.

“Most of the food is getting close to its best before date or doesn’t meet the supermarket specifications for whatever reason, but is perfectly edible.”

Long-time volunteers

While Chris and Rick are relatively new to the Loaves and Fishes warehouse, they have a long history of volunteering.

Chris has worked overseas and locally through various churches and charities, including building schools in Zambia and working with Ulverstone Anglican Church in providing a weekly meal for those who are doing it tough. He has also served at the Ulverstone High School breakfast club.

Rick has been an active member of Devonport Rotary for more than a decade, including delivering food from Loaves and Fishes to Devonport Community House as part of his many activities on behalf of the service organisation.

Rick and Chris highly valued

Mentoring chaplain with Devonport Chaplaincy and Loaves and Fishes, Pete Smith, said Chris and Rick’s maturity and demeanour made them a calming and stable presence in the warehouse.

“They do an amazing job each week without any fuss, getting beside others and sharing their wisdom in a very natural way,” he said.

Volunteers indispensable

CEO of Loaves and Fishes and Devonport Chaplaincy, Andrew Hillier, said the organisations could not exist without the heavy reliance on volunteers.

“These are among the absolute heroes of our organisations, generously giving their time to helping others,” he said.

“We could never afford to pay them,” he said.

“They are unassuming, just getting on with the job without any fuss. 

“They are an indispensable and valued part of the team.

“The relationships that are formed, the teamwork and care are equally important as the actual work that’s performed.”

Visit the Loaves and Fishes or Devonport Chaplaincy website to find out more about volunteering.

By Paul O’Rourke

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