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Bringing Christmas kindness to ‘others’

As a Salvation Army worker and volunteer, supporting others over Christmas 2021, Danny says, “for me, life is all about trying to give a little bit of connection and hope to others in need.” He has personally experienced many of the challenges faced by those he now supports – homelessness, physical and mental health issues, poverty and isolation – and understands the importance of kindness and care.

The word ‘others’ has a very special importance to volunteer and outreach worker Danny, from The Salvation Army’s Sydney Congress Hall.

(Legend has it, the single word ‘others’ is thought to have featured in a telegram sent by General William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army, to those connected with The Salvation Army.)

Danny leads a team of volunteers at the Salvos’ Sydney Congress Hall, supporting many who are experiencing homelessness (or who live in boarding houses) and others, in the inner city of Sydney. Many in the community also struggle with unemployment, physical and mental health issues, poverty, and isolation.

The Salvos’ team, under Danny’s leadership, has adapted to operate safely within COVID-19 guidelines, and their ministry includes meals, referrals to specialist services, pick up and distribution of donated goods, ‘Hope Dinner’ outreach, and more.

Danny says: "One evening [recently] I went out with four of our team to give a meal to homeless people sleeping rough. As well as the meal, we were able to give sleeping bags and warm jackets to people in desperate need of these items. 

“Many times, we heard 'thank God for the Salvos' or 'thanks for coming as others have stopped because of COVID'.

Christmas care

Danny and the team are currently supporting locals in need, through a second COVID-19 impacted Christmas.

He explains that Christmas in the city was traditionally a time of extremes.

“For someone experiencing homelessness in the city – living on the street – you would see people shopping for Christmas, all rushing past you. But then on Christmas Day, the city streets would become empty, and you would be all alone,” Danny says.

During 2020, and into Christmas 2021, COVID-19 lockdowns severely impacted small businesses and casual workers in the inner city, creating even more need.

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Danny says: “Whether it be through a Christmas dinner, or picking up gifts from donors and distributing them, we try to make Christmas really special.”

In one of many moments that have left a lasting impression, Danny tells the story of a parent who came in for Christmas food and gifts for her children and could not carry much, as she had traveled by bus.

Danny says: “She was crying and emotional [as] she was picking out some small gifts, so we arranged for her to be driven home so that she could take more than she could carry. Upon hearing this, she burst into tears again – but they were happy tears.”

Lessons learned from life

Danny’s passion for helping others, springs from personal experience.

He hit rock-bottom many times during a long battle with drug addiction. There were times when he experienced homelessness, and was alone and frightened. His lowest ‘rock bottom’ came when his addiction left him unable to walk his beloved daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. 

He says: “When I was about 17, I started smoking marijuana and then it moved to ecstasy and a bit of cocaine and ice. I held my first job as a locksmith for 19 years, but I lost it in the end. I was in a 14-year-relationship with my partner and my kids and I lost that too.” 

Danny entered The Salvation Army’s William Booth House, completed the ten-month recovery program, but then relapsed. He then went through the Salvos’ Dooralong Transformation Centre and has been clean of drug use for many years.

He says: “I really am so lucky. I meet a lot of people who say ‘my family don’t want to know me’ because in addiction people put their family through the wringer and push them away. I am so lucky that my girls, my sisters, my brothers – my family – have been very supportive the whole time.

“I [also] have seven beautiful grandchildren and am so privileged to be able to be a part of their lives too.”

Danny’s partner Kylie also works with The Salvation Army.

They are both passionate about serving people in the community and are a vital part of the Sydney Congress Hall ‘family’.

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“I come from a pretty big, extended, blended family and for me Christmas is about the birth of Jesus and being with loved ones – family and friends,” Danny says.

“I’ve been so lucky with the examples I’ve had around me, showing me that the more I serve people, the more my faith grows.

“For me, my life and faith is all about giving back, helping others and loving others and what is so great is you actually get back so much more than you give anyway,” Danny says with a smile.

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