Locals got their first taste of a brand new volunteer-run soup kitchen in Springfield Lakes at its grand opening last month.
The upgrade will allow the Centre, which opened in 2018, to expand its food assistance programs, including soup kitchen, food bank, and charitable café, now in their third year of operation.
Using donated ingredients, volunteers prepare and cook meals that are handed out as frozen packs.
Presiding over the blessing ceremony was Swami Atmeshananda, a monk belonging to the Ramakrishna Order and a teacher of the Vedanta movement – a school of Hindu philosophy.
“The Vedanta Centre has provided thousands of free meals to many in our community.”
Local merchants showcased their collections of Indian-inspired clothes and accessories at pop-up boutiques during the event, with a range of clothing, jewellery, makeup, handloom, henna, sarees, and sweets available.
The café serves Indian vegetarian food and opens every Saturday from 10am to 1pm, selling low-priced meals with an option at the counter to sponsor a meal for $5. All proceeds from the café go to the running of the organisation’s charitable activities.
The Vedanta Centre is open to all in the community, regardless of faith or belief. In addition to the kitchen, café, and garden, the multipurpose centre features a library, bookshop, and halls for meditation, prayer, and community functions.
Volunteer Co-ordinator Shankar Kotha, who is also a chief commercial hotelier, said the kitchen now includes dishwashers and a cold room that rival five-star hotel kitchens. Prior to the upgrade, all dishes were washed by hand.
“It’s very satisfying to serve people who are in need,” he said.
Volunteer Usha Gokul said she and her husband Ravi had been involved at the Maa Sarada’s Kitchen since the very start and found it incredibly rewarding
“It’s something we look forward to every week,” she said.
“All the food is prepared with such love and dedication by all the volunteers who so willingly give their time to serve others.”
Bram and Sarojna Singh said volunteering has given them an opportunity to interact with like minded service-oriented souls in a fun-loving and cheerful environment.
“A full tummy is essential for a happy mind,” they said.
“We are blessed [to be] part of this journey. A big thanks to Swami Atmeshananda for initiating this service.”
Ipswich mayor Teresa Harding was among those attending the dedication and praised the new facilities, which had been supported by government funding.
“Ipswich City Council and the Australian Government have provided $15,000 each towards building a commercial kitchen to expand their support to our community,” she said. “Steve and I were very impressed with the new kitchen and cold room.”
Jordan MP Charis Mullen also attended the event and thanked the dedicated volunteers, who number around 60, and praised their contributions to the area.
“[Their] work is supporting so many in our Greater Springfield community,” she said.
“It was lovely to be part of the dedication service this morning, to enjoy a delicious meal, meet some of the market stall holders and even plant a tree in the brand new Mandala Garden.”
The Centre regularly publishes a list of needed ingredients for preparing its meals. Members of the community can also sponsor part or full day cooking, which amounts to 150 meals given away.
In 2020, the group launched a month-long emergency service for residents affected by COVID-19, delivering around 1,000 hot meals to homes in Springfield, Springfield Lakes, Bellbird Park, Augustine Heights, and others.
Maa Sarada’s Kitchen is located in the Vedanta Centre, at 96 Vedanta Drive, Springfield Lakes, and opens 10am to 1pm Saturdays. For further information about visiting or donating to the Vedanta Centre or for volunteering enquiries, email email@example.com or call 07 3818 9986.