Published On: 9 March 2021Categories: Stories

Loaves and Fishes Tasmania volunteer, Jill Stokes, is passionate about delivering food and hope because she knows what it’s like to need emergency food relief and crisis accommodation.

Jill, (pictured with husband Kevin in the Devonport warehouse) who volunteers two days a week with Kevin, said it was humbling when she and her then teenage daughter found themselves homeless and largely helpless after a relationship breakdown about 10 years ago.

“It was very humbling, but you swallow your pride, and you ask for help because you don’t have any other choice,” Jill said, her voice breaking as she remembers, both the tough times, and the kindness of strangers.

Now in their sixties, the Stokes have a long history of volunteering, partly out of an inability to find full time work from their fifties. It makes them want to give back, and to make a difference.

“We are able to volunteer from the age of 55 instead of having to continue to look for full time work which suits us,” Jill said.

“We’ve helped out at the Tip Shop, Lifeline, City Mission, the Don River Railway and Vinnies.

They reluctantly were forced to move on from their last volunteer placement after three years because of a new policy that prevented married couples from working together on the same day in the same building.

“We’d pass the warehouse on Formby Road and more recently in Don Road over the years and thought, ‘maybe we can help?’

They started in October last year, helping to sort food and collating the emergency food relief hampers ordered by various agencies on behalf of their clients.

Hampers, containing fresh produce, ready-to-eat-meals and staples, are meant to feed a family and pets for about five to seven days.

“It’s fun and incredibly rewarding work,” Jill said.

“I love that we get to see agencies collect the food we have helped prepare in hampers, and to get feedback from time-to-time about how much people loved and appreciated the food.”

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