Hey Denis, tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up in Deniliquin country NSW, after I left high school I worked at ANZ, I stayed with them for almost 20 years NSW, the Riverina & Papua New Guinea for a few years. I went over to Papua New Guinea on a two-year contract and ended up staying for four, the lifestyle was great, very social & and we had a big expat community. I then made my way to Melbourne, after being made redundant I started working for Qantas & I was there for 22 years. The hours were tough there, we would start work at 3 am sometimes. It’s nice to have a break from that at the moment.
How did Thursday Friends come about?
I first started out helping a friend Sammy, he wanted to help give back because as a child he spent some time living on the streets in Sydney with his mother. He had some issues with his business & couldn’t continue Thursday Friends so a group of us that we’re helping at the time took over as we wanted to keep it running. We just had to give it ago and that was five years ago now.
How do you keep it running now?
We have two main food donors Delre National Foods & Fat Jaks on Acland Street who provide food on alternate weeks. Sarah from Hoi An Eats Brighton is also a regular & brings amazing soups. Our volunteers also make & bring food that can be eaten throughout the week. All our clothes are donated by word of mouth. There is no commitment for volunteers to be there every week & the group has expanded over time and I have made some great friends from it.
A good friend’s daughter started a GoFund me page which raised money to buy us a trailer to hold the trestle tables, BBQ, clothes, etc so that stays in my garage which makes it an easier process of getting everything to the market and back every week.
What’s the best part & most challenging part of your work?
The best part is the feeling of gratitude and knowing how lucky I am to be in the position I am in, the people that I’ve met along the way, and the volunteers that help out every week.
Most of these guys are sleeping on the street. A challenging part is seeing the regulars that come every week and if you don’t see them for a week or two after that you wonder and hope that they are okay. We had a break over COVID as we were unable to run the event, when we finally came back it was wonderful to see everyone again. Like a big reunion, everyone was hugging, and it was really fulfilling.
You hear some crazy stories, there is a lovely man John who is covered head to toe with tattoos, he has tattooed eyes on his eyelids, so when he was sleeping rough it looked like he was awake. John has lived on the street and juvenile detention since he was 7, he is 60 now. He does some great work for the homeless association of Victoria, he is the godfather on the street, everyone goes to him for help.
Can anyone volunteer and donate to Thursday Friends, how do we get involved?
All donations are greatly appreciated. There is no ongoing commitment for volunteers to be there every Thursday it is just a matter of turning up when you can. We manage everything through our Facebook and Instagram, every Monday we organise the group & work out what we need to make sure everyone is covered.
How can people get involved?
Describe your style in 3 words?
Casual, cool, comfortable – the three Cs.
What’s your go-to footwear?
I like runners & boots also like a loafer for summer.
The Wild Rhinos you are wearing this winter?