People with purpose: Charity begins with a chat

Posted on 05 Mar 2024

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia

20231114 114537

Officially voted Australia’s Kindest Person 2023, Rose Darling says we can all give a little to those doing it tough.

Tell us about your background in the charity space.

From an early age my parents encouraged my sister (Lee-Ann) and myself to be involved in charity work, including making donations to various causes.

On the passing of my parents, I joined a community foodies’ course with the local council and Red Cross to educate people in the community on how to shop for, cook and eat healthy, nutritious low-cost meals.

Unfortunately, government funding was withdrawn for these courses, which in my opinion should be reintroduced in these difficult times to help struggling families.

Becoming involved in food rescue led to assisting other organisations with relief programs within our local area. Food rescue from landfill is important for both economic and environmental reasons. To be able to share good quality food with those doing it tough has been rewarding.

For several years I was supplying fresh bread, fruit and vegetables from my home in Adelaide on a weekly basis. I was lucky to meet many amazing people who were very grateful for the help they received.

In addition, I was rescuing bread and continue to supply this to local schools for children to take home.

One day a child asked if I was the bread lady and said they were grateful I was delivering that day.

Just to hear “I am so glad you are here, as often when I stay at my dad’s there isn’t anything to eat and yesterday the bread was bad” makes it even more worthwhile to take the time to share food that otherwise would go to landfill.

Yes, I did alert the school and he is now provided with a food hamper to take home each week.

Australia's kindest person 2023 and founder of Community Help and Togetherness Inc (CHATS) Rose Darling.

How did you start up CHATS?

Community Help and Togetherness Inc or CHATS, as we are known, evolved from a food rescue group I was helping previously.

The Freemasons kindly allowed us free use of their hall in Port Adelaide, so we established CHATS with a wonderful board of directors. What started as a free Friday breakfast with 30 visitors has grown to a weekly visit for about 90 people.

The City of Port Adelaide/Enfield has one of the highest rates of homelessness and unemployment in South Australia.

I had worked in the international freight industry in Port Adelaide for 30 years prior to retirement at age 49 and was very aware of some of the problems with disadvantage that people experience.

To be able to supply a three-course cooked breakfast and grocery items along with fruit and vegetables plus bread to take home has helped thousands of people over the past four years.

When we established CHATS, a decision was made not to ask our visitors to donate or for us to sell goods, a decision we are pleased that we still are able to honour.

I am proud to say that not only do our visitors receive goods for free, our volunteers and board don’t receive any financial payments, a philosophy the community really likes.

That said, as we grow to full capacity the financial burden has increased and we rely on donations and our fundraising efforts.

In 2023 CHATS opened a shopfront for the exclusive use of our visitors immediately adjacent to where breakfast is served where they can get pet food, clothing, bedding, shoes and toiletries for free.

We’re very grateful to the local community, local businesses, Foodbank and OzHarvest for the assistance we receive.

Everything CHATS does would not be possible without the help of our band of volunteers and directors who not only offer their time for free but show genuine compassion for those visitors we help.

Social isolation is a huge problem. By attending our breakfast, visitors come together to meet others, have a chat and be aware that people do care and are interested in them.

"We can all give a little to those doing it tough."

What did it feel like to be named Australia’s Kindest Person?

The Black Pepper Kindest Person award is a wonderful showcase of the amazing people who work at a grass roots level to help make the lives of others more comfortable.

Receiving this award last November was a very humbling experience. To be chosen from thousands of applicants, to spend the day with the other finalist from all over Australia at the prestigious presentation was an honour and I understand the judges would have had a tough decision to make.

In 2021 I was awarded the City of Port Adelaide Enfield Citizen of the Year which was a wonderful recognition for the hard work of not only myself but all involved in CHATS.

We have since been awarded the Community Service award and more recently the Emerging Events award for our CHATS-in-Cars event. It was held on a very cold night in June to raise funds for those who sleep in their cars each night.

How would you describe your philosophy of helping people less fortunate than yourself?

Personally, I find it very difficult to see others struggling with homelessness and loneliness and often become more involved than is probably good for me.

Everyone has the capacity to help another person in some way and I now find myself surrounded by lovely people with the same mindset.

We can all give a little to those doing it tough. At CHATS we ask that you don’t take more than you need and leave a little for someone else.

Helping others is a wonderful way to give yourself the happy vibes. I love the way it makes me feel when I know I have made a small difference to someone else. I think the philosophy of “There but for the grace of God go I” is a great way to show some compassion.

What is one thing we could all do to help people doing it tough?

Take the time to have a chat.

Many of our homeless say that people look away from them as if they don’t exist. Everyone wants to feel included and seen no matter their circumstances.

A few words of support can brighten the life of someone doing it tough.

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