Hartley’s volunteers with heart


May 16, 2023

If you have ever been to Hartley’s community dining room in Prahran, you likely will have spotted Ian Harris flaunting a black, striped kitchen apron with a twinkle in his eyes. 

For 25 years, Ian has volunteered at Hartley’s preparing warm meals for those in need.

His vegetable cutting skills are revered by many and even non-footy supporters find themselves signing up for his footy tipping.

“I started volunteering in the 90s,” said Ian.

“I help in the kitchen, preparing vegetables. The onions make me cry sometimes,” he joked.

“I love doing it. I love being with other people, with friends.”

Ian has helped out at Hartley’s for almost as long as the service has been running and is well known by the regulars.

Anyone is welcome at the Uniting service, but most patrons are rough sleepers or those unable to cook for themselves or afford food due to loss of employment, low income, increasing cost of living, or struggles with mental health.

Meet Vito

Vito is another volunteer at Hartley’s who doesn’t let his age stop him from lending a helping hand.

This year he celebrated his 90th birthday.

However, for Vito age is well and truly just a number.

During the week, Vito splits his time between volunteering at Hartley’s and the St Kilda Engagement Hub, a drop-in centre supporting people experiencing social isolation and mental ill health.

“I love watching people enjoy each other’s company. I love being part of that,” he said.

“It’s for selfish reasons I come here, I have fun.”

Vito’s infectious energy and enthusiasm for life leaves you feeling inspired and warm inside.

In the past year 1,714 volunteers worked 1.3 million hours to deliver and support Uniting’s services across Victoria and Tasmania. Volunteers make up 38% of our workforce and range from 14 to 93 years of age.

It is the compassion and generosity of Uniting’s volunteers that allow our services to run.


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