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Sydney charity working overtime to feed thousands

9News.com.au logo 9News.com.au 26/03/2020 Mike Dalton

At the end of an industrial estate driveway in a warehouse in Windsor west of Sydney, on the crowded concrete floor, is for many the difference between eating and not eating over the next few days.

Linda Strickland, the founder of Hawkesbury's Helping Hands, and I stand amongst a large collection of canned and packet groceries gathered in shopping bags at our feet.

"How many people do you think you're looking after at the moment?" I ask Linda.

a person standing in front of a box: The Helping Hands charity in the Hawkesbury is feeding thousands of people affected by the coronavirus. © 9News The Helping Hands charity in the Hawkesbury is feeding thousands of people affected by the coronavirus.

"A couple of hundred, but later this week, it will be a couple of thousand," she replies.

"We've probably doubled our usual input, just in the last three days. We haven't stopped all week.

"I'm starting to get a little tired actually; I had two days off in October."

a bunch of items that are on a table: The charity provides care packages of fresh and healthy food. © 9News The charity provides care packages of fresh and healthy food.

Linda isn't exaggerating.

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For the Helping Hands, their work would start in mid-November with the rage of the Colo bushfires, feeding SES personnel and firies as they returned from the fire grounds.

It continued through mid-January with the rains that cooled the summer but left Richmond and Windsor's bridges and homeless night refuges submerged in local floods, and now in late March, the rolling crush of coronavirus.

a store filled with lots of furniture: The charity has supported people through the bushfire crisis, the local floods, and now the pandemic. © 9News The charity has supported people through the bushfire crisis, the local floods, and now the pandemic.

With businesses folding or shutting as isolation laws bite, desperation has grown, and Helping Hands is now fashioning care packs jammed with fresh food and groceries.

"We're trying to offer the basics, and the things they might use to make multiple meals with," says volunteer Theresa Simonsen.

A portable freezer hums in the loading dock, where meat and milk can also be collected, and farmers' bins of fruit and veg opposite.

For many, it is the first time they have reached for charity.

a group of people standing around a table: More volunteers would be welcome. © 9News More volunteers would be welcome.

"With pride and dignity, people don't like to ask," says Linda.

"That's heartbreaking too, and when you say you can help them, they break into tears, which makes us start crying."

But Linda Strickland is not stopping, although she says she could do with a few extra helping hands to help field the increasing frequency of incoming calls, and maybe a forklift for the loading dock.

And when this is over, maybe Linda Strickland can take another weekend off, given the last was in October.

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