'Being a part of these pantry drives with Matthew was one of the most rewarding things I have done,' said teacher and old scholar, Emily Wilkins, about working with our guest speaker at the International Men's Day breakfast in November.
Emily graduated from Dominic College in Year 10 1995, the same year as Matthew's sister Jenny. Matthew was a teacher at Sacred Heart College when Emily started teaching there and they became friends as well as colleagues.
'Matthew and I have spent a lot of time together over the years, have found we have many things in common, and share a unique sense of humour. We have both been involved in initiatives to help our community previously, but the pantry drive was possibly the first time the two of us had worked together from developing of the idea, to the conclusion.
'To be honest, it was Matthew who brought up assisting others in some way first, as we began working towards the idea that would become the pantry drive. He expressed concern regarding what COVID-19 was doing to our community spirit. Excess buying and hoarding was just starting, and even to be able to find the basic essentials, such as toilet paper and basic pantry items, was becoming an arduous task. People were panicking, and it wasn't bringing out the best in us.
'This is what started the conversation about the more vulnerable members of our community, and how much more difficult it would be for those who were isolated and didn't have the means of transporting themselves from shop to shop, for simple items. Matthew led the charge here in what was to become our first 'pantry drive'. We decided that non-perishable goods was the way to go and we decided together to contact St Vincent de Paul and ask if they would be able to assist us in the distribution of our goods. We knew that they would have the means, and contacts, to distribute. We also contacted Tasmania Police to ensure we were following correct protocols in our contact-free pick-up of goods.
'Thank you to our schools, Sacred Heart College and Guilford Young College, for our colleagues' support. Matthew and I both had the opportunity to speak on local radio stations, and with the help of our friends we shared the initiative on social media post. The Mercury got involved twice, and helped us spread the word.
'Due to the first pantry drive being so successful, we more than tripled our efforts for the second pantry drive, and ended up filling multiple trucks for St Vincent de Paul. This time friends volunteered to help with pick-up in specified areas, according to suburbs. There were many people who put their hands up to assist us in some way. This, to Matthew and I, helped restore a sense of community, as we worked together to make sure that those who were most in need, were remembered and supported.
'Being a part of these pantry drives with Matthew was one of the most rewarding things I have done. Matthew is a kind-hearted man, who supports diversity, who has the ability to multi-task, think outside the box and find multiple creative responses to a multitude of potential challenges. Working by his side is rewarding as I'm reminded about true friendship, community, inclusivity, and what we can do when we just put our heads together. I'll always be honoured to call him my friend.'
Matthew has enjoyed a diverse creative career, acting, writing, directing and making. He has been immersed in bringing forward the next generation of creative talent through his teaching career at Sacred Heart and Guilford Young College. Now his friend Emily has revealed Matthew's concern for community and values. What an interesting guest speaker for our Men's Day breakfast!
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