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A FACE IN THE CROWD

The following story was recently forwarded to OPA Central by Noel Vincent, a final year student of the Class of ’63. Noel’s story relates to his involvement with Parade College’s celebrated Eddie’s Brekkie Van program, in aid of members of the local West Heidelberg/Olympic Village community who may otherwise go without.

An ambitious idea borne out of an acute sense of social justice, the Brekkie Van is one of Parade’s most popular Community Action initiatives. Early every Tuesday morning during school term, a small team of volunteer students, staff and Old Paradians depart Parade in a mini-van laden with donated breakfast goodies – bacon, eggs, sausages, bread, tea and coffee.

The Olympic Village Park, next to the local primary school in West Heidelberg, was earmarked as an appropriate location for the van’s destination, and before long children on their way to school, parents and even some nearby residents were warmly welcomed to a barbecue breakfast from 7.15am onwards.

For almost ten years, the Brekkie Van has served those in need – and quite literally doubled as a vehicle for the forging of true friendships, as Noel reveals here;

Whilst working as a volunteer with Eddie’s Brekkie Van one Tuesday morning, I spied this somewhat familiar ‘face in the crowd’.

My thoughts immediately took me back some 50-plus years and I was compelled to approach, strike up a conversation and issue a few challenges to this rather puzzled and bemused person who at the outset had no idea of my identity.

I recognised this person as a fellow schoolmate; not a close friend from school days but an ‘Old Paradian’ nevertheless, who had shared with me some ‘Bluestone Pile’ experiences in the early 60s.

The conversation that followed was intriguing. After some rhetorical ‘thrust and parry’ we readily identified that we had retained mutual friends, despite the years, and could speak of their respective life journeys with some wisdom and authority.

The gap of the many years apart meant little, as we enthusiastically engaged in various conversations and opinions about sport, politics, public figures and the nature of today’s social media.

We spoke of our personal and respective journeys and shared delight and grief as we reminisced about those fellow school mates, some of whom were no longer with us.

The ‘Face in the Crowd’ was one John Bell, a former West Heidelberg resident, who spent his youth in the heart of the Olympic Village and had returned to his family home after many years working in both Canberra and the Northern Territory.

One irrevocable, common link,that we shared with great affection, was the bond with Rev. Father Kevin Mogg who was for us both, the vital ingredient of everything positive and good for the youth of West Heidelberg Parish at St. Pius X, those many years ago.

Thankfully, we have both, more recently, been able to meet with Fr. Kevin socially and the banter went on and on.

For me, personally, volunteer work at the Brekkie Van has been a truly wonderful experience. There is an indescribable something that fills one’s spirit when one volunteers and chooses to connect with those who may be judged as being less fortunate than oneself.

To be able to make a difference is so fulfilling; to know that others welcome your care and are positively influenced by your experience and your values is most rewarding.

So, now we together both publicly and privately continue to explore life’s little challenges as we both interact with many of the residents at ‘The Village’ and we quietly observe, at close quarters, the magnificent work of the young Parade men who give so generously of their time and energy to support those less fortunate than themselves.

A chance occurrence? ... just a ‘face in the crowd’perhaps this was meant to happen as just one of life’s little mysteries that has drawn us closer together for a better cause ... or....just a chance meeting?...yet one that has been so valuable to us both.

Noel Vincent

If you would like to join Old Paradians like Noel (pictured at the left with John) in a spirit of friendship while assisting those less fortunate of a Tuesday morning through Eddie’s Brekkie Van, please contactAnne-Marie Morello, Parade’s Community Action Coordinator, Anne-marie.morello@parade.vic.edu.au