A POPULAR community meal evening has been saved thanks to the persistence of one committed volunteer.
When the Lilydale Salvation Army closed in August due to funding cuts, the fortnightly meal-time at Matt's Cafe was also in danger.
The eastern Victoria division of the Salvation Army could no longer subsidise costs for the branch, and this popular meeting spot for less-fortunate residents looked likely to go with it.
Former centre manager Neal Taylor told the Weekly in July, after learning the Lilydale branch would close, that continuing Matt's Cafe was his biggest focus. "People who have been struggling the hardest, ensuring they have somewhere to go once we close — that's important," he said.
But now, the community dinner, with the hard work of Mr Taylor, has shifted venues and will continue to operate every second Friday night.
"There was a desperate need for this service, a place for people to connect with others experiencing tough times," Mr Taylor said. "When the [Lilydale] Salvos closed, these people had nowhere to go and meet. They felt pretty angry and, in a sense, betrayed."
In his role as volunteer chairman for ministry group Holy Fools, Mr Taylor managed to move Matt's Cafe to The Chapel in Lilydale.
"We were fortunate to get a $6000 grant from Yarra Ranges Council, and are also relying on food donations to keep us going," he said. "We're aiming to engage with other local churches so they can get involved."
He said the meet-up, which is like a relaxed soup kitchen, was important for those on society's fringe to interact. "The concept of Matt's Cafe comes from the Bible story where Matthew the tax collector invites Jesus to have dinner at his house ..." Mr Taylor said.
Matt's Cafe runs every second Friday at The Chapel, 42-44 Castella Street, Lilydale, and all are welcome. Details can be found at the Holy Fools' Facebook page.
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