Ballarat’s second Soup Bus is ready to serve with negotiations well underway for new locations it can use to help feed hungry residents.
The bus, named Jono, has finished its months-long refit and repaint and is expected to be out serving meals in late January.
The original Soup Bus has been serving meals in Ballarat for almost nine years, and this year found a bricks-and-mortar home at the Senior Citizens Centre in Little Bridge St.
OnTrack Foundation president Craig Schepis said he was excited to be able to serve meals at three separate locations when both buses are on the road next year.
Mr Schepis said he was meeting and negotiating with community leaders from Delacombe and Wendouree for new sites.
”We are trying to maintain the Senior Citizens Centre as a permanent venue for the CBD, which means we have our old bus and Jono the new bus ready to go to two other areas in Delacombe and Wendouree,” Mr Schepis said.
Ideally the new bus will be on the road in late January at a time when many families suffer back-to-school financial stress.
“It would be ideal if we could get out close to the end of January and start of February. That’s certainly where we see more demand for our services with kids going back to school, uniforms and books to buy, there’s lots of pressure on families so we are trying to focus on getting ourselves up for that,” he said.
The challenge is finding appropriate sites that are easily accessible to the greatest number of people who might need a feed.
Mr Schepis explained the new bus was named Jono in memory of Jonathan (Jono) Crowden, a Ballarat man struck and killed by lightning while hiking in the Grand Canyon in 2015.
“I grew up with his mum and dad and watched Jono grow up. He was an extremely giving, caring, passionate young man who unfortunately was taken away from us tragically a couple of years ago.
“I know what he loved to do for people in need, and especially around homelessness, and I spoke to his parents and said I would really like to continue to keep Jono’s memory alive and and name the new bus after him.”
It has been a community effort refitting the Jono bus to make it suitable for Soup Bus operations.
The bus, which CDC donated, visited Advanced Cabinetry last week so workers, who built the open plan interior, could inspect the final product.
Other Ballarat businesses, including Maxi Trans, and various community organisations including Apex also contributed to the bus.
“A lot of people put a lot of faith in me for the first bus because it was really unknown, but now we’ve got nearly nine full years of history, and about 500 volunteers involved in the process, so a lot of people know what the demand is and a lot of people jumped on board to assist in the process of fitting out the new bus,” Mr Schepis said.
With three sites to service, Mr Schepis said the Soup Bus project was also looking for more volunteers. Most volunteers offer their time one night a month.
“We don’t like it to be a time burden,” he said.
“More volunteers will allow some of the other crews to move around a bit – from the indoor location to out on the bus.”
All volunteers are trained and go out on Soup Bus nights to see how it works before they are put in to service.
“We are looking at negotiating sites, getting a few logistics under control and organising with the community so that we can actually service three venues at the same time.”