A Helping Hand through COVID-19 Hardship

Sometimes, we know we need to seek help, we want to seek help, but we don’t really know where to start. Our Director of Social Programs and Volunteering, Ruth Zanker, says, “Start with us.”

Communities@Work food rescue

As Canberra’s largest community service organisation, we provide a range of support in food, accommodation and clothing for Canberrans in need. We also provide crisis support – a way to meet immediate needs in crisis. More than that, we know a lot about what’s happening in the community, and run programs to support those struggling, particularly during this time of COVID-19.

As the local superhero that she is, Ruth extends her hand to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the Canberra community, and says, “Let Communities@Work be your backup plan.” As someone who’s been in the organisation for over 20 years, she knows how it’s possible to make a real difference in the lives of people, by offering a little help and support.

For instance, she describes a recent experience of helping someone in need, through the Communities@Work crisis support services.

“Yesterday, we had a person come to the community centre in Tuggeranong, and they had actually been without their medication for about four days. This was epilepsy medication, and she unfortunately didn’t have the money or the set of supports around her to be able to access the medicines. We were able to pay for her script and help her out.”

This is just one of the many ways that Communities@Work crisis support is able to support people in the Canberra community.

Crisis Support: Getting Help with Food

Food is one of the most common things that people often need help with. Communities@Work community pantries in Tuggeranong and Gungahlin offer food assistance throughout the year. During the time of COVID-19, we are using the Canberra Relief Network to provide hampers to those in need –  Communities@Work can be nominated as a pickup point for these hampers.

Usually, when someone comes in seeking assistance for food, they also start talking about the circumstances around why they need the food. This provides an opportunity to find out more about their situation and explore other supports that can be offered to them.

Communities@Work team with the Canberra Relief Network Hampers

Crisis Support: Getting Help with Immediate Needs

Crisis support is a little bit different to everybody who needs it, because it is about addressing each individual’s immediate need. Often, it involves food, but it can also involve things like medical scripts, bus tickets, Telstra (phone) vouchers, phone charging, shower packs, food for people who are ‘sleeping rough’ etc. The support provided is inclusive and non-discriminatory and works on an appointment-basis. These appointments provide a safe space for people to talk about their needs without fear of judgement.

“We have an amazing team of staff who are not judgmental, know so much about all the amazing support that people could access, and really have amazing warm hearts and want to do what they can for people in need,” says Ruth.

Crisis Support: Getting Information and Referrals

Sometimes, we are unable to provide the desired help as it falls out of our scope. On such occasions, another way of offering crisis support is doing informational referrals to other services.

“We make sure we know a lot about the services that we provide information referral to, and we would also never refer someone to a service that we wouldn’t be prepared to take on and be proud of ourselves.”

Eligibility for Crisis Support

“We’re really proud of the fact that we provide support to anyone who walks in our door and asks for our help,” says Ruth.

Everyone has a different situation. For example, not everyone will necessarily have a health care card. So, for those who come to Communities@Work looking for help, we offer them assistance, working through their issues with them. The appointment-based system also gives us the time and energy to focus on the needs of the person that we’re interacting with.

How You Can Help the Community

We aim to create positive impact by supporting our local community and helping those in need, whether it’s through crisis support, or one of our many other community services. There is a range of ways you can help your local community too:

1. Help by volunteering

Volunteers form a huge part of the Communities@Work family. We love our volunteers and their dedication. We know that we couldn’t support the Canberrans in need without them. (In fact, next week is National Volunteers Week Australia and we’ve a little surprise planned for our volunteers)!

If you’d like to help your community, there is no better way than to sign up to be a volunteer. You can volunteer in many of our program areas including Community Pantries, Clothing Program, Best Dressed Store, or even our Seniors or Disability Programs, depending on availability and need. We are always looking for volunteers to help us out, so check out how you can get involved.

Communities@Work Community Pantry Volunteer

2. Donate things (food, clothing or money)

Our pantries provide food and essential items to many who would otherwise struggle to meet their everyday needs. We are always happy to accept donations for food, hygiene products, cleaning products etc.

You can make a difference to your community by donating any essential items, including clothes for our clothing program and Best Dressed Store. Alternatively, you can also donate money to help us support the vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the Canberra community.

3. Spread the word

A quick and easy way to help your community is by spreading the word about community organisations and networks. This way, if someone is struggling, chances are they’ll know where to seek help because they heard about it through someone, who found out through you, about crisis support (or other means of support and assistance). After all, it’s a small world!


We hope you found our first blog post informative and insightful. All information included in this article about Communities@Work and crisis support was provided by Ruth Zanker, Director of Social Programs and Volunteering.

If you are struggling, or know someone who is struggling, give us a ring on 02 6293 6500 or Get In Touch via our website.

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