Founded in 2018 by Laurie McLeod, Audrey Van Ryn and Danielle LeGallais, Sunday Blessings has worked relentlessly to provide for our community and forge relationships with a diverse range of community groups.
When starting out together we had the common belief that no one living in Auckland City should have to search through a rubbish bin for food. We eagerly joined forces with Victoria, head of former community group 'Helping Hands of Devonport' and helped with their Sunday meal at Auckland Library.
In 2018 Helping Hands of Devonport had to wind up their services, this meant there ceased to be a single free food provision service available on a Sunday for our people.
Subsequently, that was the birth of our official organisation made up of the 3 founding families, still concerned with the same purpose of alleviating hunger for our un-homed community in Auckland city.
We worked so hard that first year - it exhausts us to remember it! Some of the highlights were working with Ian from the Salvation Army, creating a relationship with Chris and Wilf from Auckland City Mission and most importantly, initiating a relationship with tertiary education youth through Social Entrepreneurship lecturer, Smita Singh of AUT.
Fast forward to 2021 where presently we are in collaboration with fellow community driven organisations: Orange Sky, Tender Love & Care, Koha Apparel, Community Groups Feed the Homeless, AUT, Brown Pride, Glendowie Primary School and more. We also work with a plethora of workplaces and passionate individuals in a structured manner. As a result of implementing structure within this community unity initiative, we have extended the blessings far further than just the 1 meal per week.
Firstly, we continue to hold meal services at 6pm every Sunday, and for 12 months additionally hosted an AUT student led Tuesday meal service. 8 meals a month was an absolute bare minimum, often increasing our services with an impromptu meal when we had surplus of food donations. We currently continue to provide food to those in need visiting the Ellen Melville Centre during the week on an ad hoc basis as surplus food donations arise.
Secondly, in 2019/20 we provided day trips to guests who have mostly never been out of Auckland to the beach as well as facilitate clothing and blanket donations each Sunday. We also have a 'James LeGallais' scholarship (named after our youngest team member) for a male seeking to complete an introductory university course named 'New Start' for a male recipient who comes from a disadvantaged background.
More on our involvement with younger community members (born from a collaboration with with Glendowie Primary), Sunday Blessings now provides an easy way for youth to safely get involved with helping their community from the comfort of their own homes. We do this by sharing our donations roster (found under 'Get Involved') with parents and teachers of local schools, then accepting awesome baking from children and passing it straight out to grateful guests. Perishable items are 100% accepted by our guests therefore by Sunday Blessings. This is something quite distinctive about our group.
Danielle (an AUT Law and Business student) is frequently invited to speak to groups of students and adults of all ages about how to get involved with helping our un-homed community. Through this she tries to squash some of the misunderstandings people have about our un-homed friends, a group she once belonged to and fought hard to get out of. By sharing this life experience and stories of our guests we humanise a group of people who we have seen real change in over the years, as well as inspire others to think about how to show kindness in their own initiatives.
Throughout 2021 we have had the dual purpose of alleviating food waste on a large scale by collecting food otherwise destined for the bin from local retailers such as AUT cafes/AUT Events and Catering, Bluebells Cakery, East Auckland bakeries and sports groups like St Georges Rowing Club and Kings College Rowing.
Currently members of Sunday Blessings in collaboration with AUT Legal Education students are also working with the Human Rights Commission. As soon as it is appropriate, with the support of the Human Rights Chief Commissioner Tony Hunt we are launching a petition urging our government to declare accessibility to food as a fundamental human right in a state with so much harmful food waste as Aotearoa NZ.
We will load this petition on our website once it goes live.
We look forward to adding much more to this story as community support and therefore our impact grows.
Sunday Blessings Auckland is striving to lead by example in all areas concerning homelessness. Serving weekly meals is our way of building trust with our friends in need, ensuring that we are here to stay.
However, serving meals on Sundays is only the beginning of a long journey. We aspire to help as many people as we can to combat hunger and homelessness. Collaborating with a range of wonderful similar organisations enables us to make this happen.
We believe in "Less talk, more do."