For 30 years, the Preston and Thornbury neighbourhood houses have supported the communities of the Melbourne suburbs, each home to a diverse and sometimes disadvantaged community.
But in early 2016, the Thornbury house was in dire straits, according to The Bridge chief executive Chris Lombardo.
“They were in danger of closing due to financial problems, and we didn’t want to see a valuable community asset lost. So we took it over and rebranded both centres as The Bridge.”
Since then, The Bridge has done it’s best to serve the needs to two very different communities.
“All neighbourhood houses are different, because every community is different”, she says.
“We do a lot of community development programs. We deliver pre-accredited training to adults as a pathway to employment or further training. We also run child care to enable parents to do training programs with us.”
GoGet van hire, here to help
Funding for The Bridge comes from a variety of sources. The Departments of Education and Training and Human Services provide some support, and Darebin Council provides the buildings rent free.
But other than the occasional grant and the hard work of volunteers, The Bridge doesn’t get any other program specific support.
One of the unfunded services The Bridge provides is a community lunch at the Preston centre every Friday.
But support from GoGet is helping make Laneway Lunches more successful than ever.
“We started feeding around 20 people, and we’re now up to between 65 and 80”, Chris says.
“One of the places we can get free food is Foodbank in Yarraville. But that’s a fair way from us, and we didn’t have a vehicle to make the fortnightly trip.
“Through the generosity of GoGet we’ve been given the use of GoGet vans once a fortnight for 3.5 hours to pick up as many groceries as we can.”
Before the support of GoGet’s car share service, The Bridge was relying on another organisation’s generosity. With the use of GoGet vans, volunteers can now transport more food on their own terms.
“We’re very appreciative of the support from GoGet. The other agency could only guess what we needed, but now we’ve got the van we can go ourselves. It’s saving us so much money.”
Good food, good friends
The access to GoGet van hire has also been appreciated by the regular lunch goers.
“Oh there’s a few characters”, Chris says.
“There’s one man who travels by train and bus for an hour because he says it’s the best desserts he gets anywhere! I say that’s because my mum makes all the desserts. She’s a country cook, so they come and get country style cooking for lunch.
“We realised there were some people who’d never cooked for themselves and didn’t know where to start. So we started a basic cooking class. Two ladies that come every week are well into the 80s.”
GoGet car share is proud to provide access to our cars and vans to services like The Bridge, who are working to make our cities better places to live.
Chris says The Bridge is always looking for more help. If you can give them your support, or your time as a volunteer, drop them a line.