Tamworth’s Liberty Foodcare: The need is still there five years later, after drought and COVID | The daily leader of the North



Almost five years ago a church in Tamworth took a drastic step, rented a storefront in Robert Street and opened, not a clothing store, but a grocery store! It all started with a few employees, swapping a few hours a week. But five years of drought and floods, winter and COVID ensure there are still hundreds of people in Tamworth struggling to get by. These days, Liberty Foodcare is open five days a week with a staff of 30 and 600 customers a month. At the end of last year, the waves spread even further and Liberty Foodcare, Barraba became a reality. It started when local resident Estrella Hamilton approached Liberty pastor James Ardill and asked, “Why not Barraba?” She found a listening ear in James, who had long had a vision of expanding Foodcare into other townships. The opportunity presented itself when the Old Vic Hotel on Queen Street was renovated. The church has rented five rooms, shelves and furniture have been installed, and the shop now opens Thursdays and Saturdays with Estrella as manager. Also read: It was a win-win. Estrella, 77, said: “I don’t want to stay at home and get old. God gave me health and strength. I want to use it for him and for our people. “My role is to recruit and coordinate volunteers. There is something for everyone. The store is in the center of town. We don’t want to compete; in fact, we buy gift cards from local businesses to support them. We provide baskets for Rotary and RSL raffles. This produces a ripple effect when a person receives help, the blessing continues. “People struggle to get by. Small towns can be expensive places to live. Towns to shop in, so food costs can get horrendous. Pastor James is a firm believer that true religion is not locked into a time and place, but lives in a church that responds to those around it to escape the things that bind them. We chose Barraba because he needs a circuit breaker, d ‘a voice to say “life can be better”. “It’s not a stand-alone effort. We engage with the community and we all work together to produce a better result. It helps people to help themselves. Allowing people to have more in their pockets to pay the bills must be a good thing. One by one we saw empty stores opening up. People are commenting in the store how good it is. Some come back to volunteer. A couple came in and bought a basket but didn’t have a car to take it home so one of the workers said, “Let me drive you home”. “Not everyone is polite, but we can still give love back.” Barraba is a town of 1400 inhabitants. The median age is 55, the income is half the national average. Estrella doesn’t earn a dime from what she does, in fact, she pays some of her own money to make it happen. She says, “It’s my way of serving people. Jesus said ‘when you feed people, you feed me’. People stop to chat. I hope to start Bible study soon.” This year, Estrella has been nominated as one of five finalists for Australian Barraba of the Year. Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. Here’s how you can continue to access our trusted content:



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