The Twin Rivers Centre – Pioneering dignified food relief for thousands of Queenslanders each year.

For the last 26 years, the Twin Rivers Staff have supported Queenslanders in need and other charities throughout the state. At the heart of the charity is the support of the Twin Rivers Church and the Food Outlet Managers, Noel and Gayle. Starting with humble beginnings, Noel’s move to Brisbane from Hervey Bay saw him connect with Foodbank Queensland in the very early days.

“This started with one of my little trucks from my previous business and a few Eskies. I went to Foodbank and sowed a seed of 400 dollars out of my own pocket. This was back when Foodbank was in Fortitude Valley and there were only two staff at Foodbank.” – Noel

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Throughout the last 26 years, Noel, Gayle, and the Centre’s team have built the Twin Rivers Food Outlet into a very successful and integral charity located on Brisbane’s south side. Operating under the vision and direction of the Twin Rivers Church, the Food Outlet plays a huge role in connecting, building, and equipping people for success in every area of life. The Food Outlet has received unwavering support from the Twin Rivers Church, with Pastor Bob Engwicht initially aiding the cause. Presently, Pastor Reuben Roos carries forward this support. His and the church’s steadfast backing plays a pivotal role in the centre’s accomplishments, enabling it to make a profound difference in the community.

Each day over 450 families rely upon the low-cost groceries the Twin River’s Food Outlet provides. That’s more than 100,000 clients annually, who are supported by the tireless efforts of the entire team at the Centre. However, in the last year, the increase in need is noticeable, as Noel discussed: “Now on average, 450 families per day, six days a week. Numbers have increased recently with RBA interest rises; the figures are around 480 per day.” –  Noel

The operations of such a large charity would not be possible without the assistance of volunteers, staff, and Skilling Queensland trainees. These traineeships offered by the Twin Rivers Centre in partnership with the Queensland Government’s Skilling Queenslanders for work program, are another aspect of the work of the Twin Rivers Centre. As Gayle explained,

“We do retail traineeships here. We have ten trainees here and we have three in the café and five in admin. Every 18 weeks we offer that, and we put them through the course. They do their units, and we provide all the practicals.”

This is an important part of their work in assisting disadvantaged Queenslanders in gaining valuable skills, qualifications, and experience to enter and stay in the workforce. The Twin Rivers Centre also provides traineeships in hospitality, retail, and administration as well as offering counselling services and NDIS support. The opportunities provided by this and the access to low-cost groceries interlace closely with Noel and Gayle’s motto of, “a hand up and not a hand down”.

This is visually represented through the pristine presentation of the Twin Rivers Food Outlet store. When arriving, one might mistake the centre for a typical grocery store. Upon entering, service users can use the available trolleys, shop for products in the aisles and in the large commercial refrigerators, and check out at the counters with conveyor belts, serviced by the retail trainees. The best part – all products are heavily discounted.

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“We don’t want them to feel like this is a charity. We want them to feel this is their weekly shop. We want people to walk in here, we’ve had people who have lost their jobs and almost feel embarrassed to come in. So, we’re very big on cleaning, keeping it neat and tidy. It’s hard enough to ask for help.” -Noel

Further adding to the dignity of the service provided here, Noel and Gayle chose this model of food relief after surveying their service users over 19 years ago to better understand how they wanted to receive food relief. The overwhelming response was being able to choose exactly what they wanted and needed.

People know how much money they have to spend, so we wanted to provide something for them – a choice. We didn’t want to embarrass them when they got to the checkout.” – Gayle

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With years of experience in running a large, successful charity, Noel, Gayle and the rest of the Twin Rivers Centre staff hope to help more Queenslanders in need through mentoring other charities.

“I have felt very strongly for a long time now about helping other smaller organisations that haven’t walked the road yet, that maybe don’t have facilities, don’t have storage. We’re connecting with a lot of smaller charities that just need a bit of mentoring because we’ve done this, I’ve done this for 26 years now, so I’ve learned one or two things.” – Noel

It hasn’t always been an easy path. In 2004, the building the Food Outlet was operating from was burnt down by vandals on a Saturday night. Noel explained how he would never forget the feeling of it:

We were just standing there crying and we had customers come up to us and say, “Noel, you’ve got to reopen, please reopen. I can’t survive”.

By Tuesday morning Noel and his team had a council building just up the road, and the community gathered behind them dropping off fridges and freezers. The community’s rallying behind the Twin Rivers Centre is a testament to the importance this Centre holds in the Eagleby community.

Years of hard work have paid off with thousands and thousands of families accessing their services. Without Member Charities like the Twin Rivers Centre, Foodbank Queensland wouldn’t be able to reach as many Queenslanders in need.

“And it wouldn’t have happened, it wouldn’t have started without Foodbank. As much as I wanted to help people, it would not have started without Foodbank.”  – Noel

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If you are in a position to help Foodbank Queensland provide more food across the state to support Queenslanders in need, please consider joining the fight against hunger as a regular giver.

If you are a Queensland charity, Foodbank Queensland membership is a great way to support your food relief projects, offering your organisation a reliable source of food and groceries all year round.