Mary Mac's

Mary Mac’s Place at Woy Woy, run by St John the Baptist Parish and CatholicCare, provides lunch for the homeless and builds relationships and connections amongst the community.

Summary of Learnings

Mary Mac’s Place began in 1993 as a project of the parish of Woy Woy. Since then it has grown and now caters for anywhere between 80-120 people daily for lunch from Monday – Friday.

Those who come to Mary Mac’s for lunch are called companions as building relationships and connections is just as important as satisfying physical needs.

Since 2005, Mary Mac’s has been located in the Ethel Cox Parish Centre in Woy Woy, and has laundry and shower facilities for the homeless to use.

Fr John Hill, Parish Priest of the Parish of Woy Woy Peninsula, has been a great support to Mary Mac’s over the years, kindly allowing use of the Parish Centre when the new church was built.

Project Coordinator Christine Burge has been working at Mary Mac’s for the past year, and has seen the need in the community double in that time. “When I started last year we had about 60 people each day,” said Christine. “People ask me how business is, and I say ‘good’, but it isn’t good that the need for assistance is increasing in such a dramatic way.”

Mary Mac’s relies heavily on volunteers and donations, as well as receiving support from CatholicCare Broken Bay and St Vincent de Paul. Approximately 10 volunteers help out each day to cook a hot lunch for their patrons. In all about 60 volunteers are on the roster.

Christine sources volunteers through the Parish, through word of mouth and through local volunteer registers.

In the local area a number of businesses support their staff in “community days” where they take a work day to participate in community work. Some of the local businesses volunteer at Mary Mac’s as their placement in this community program.

Mary Mac’s also has connections with local Catholic Schools with students involved in volunteering at the centre.

Volunteers are provided with training and guidelines as to the practices used at Mary Mac’s to ensure the safety and dignity of all is maintained.

Food is collected by Food Rescue from many sources such as local Woolworths and Franklins stores and bakeries, as well as lots of donations from locals from their own gardens. One man brings in a bag of oranges every day from his tree.

In this way Mary Mac’s connects with the wider community bringing people together in order to support those in the community who may be disadvantaged or lonely.

Apart from providing a hot meal the volunteers at Mary Mac’s also provide the assistance and support to the companions with such activities as help filling in census forms and connections to community support services, whilst offering a warm and safe environment.

Mary Mac’s Place is unique as it is a parish-based project directly helping the homeless and socially disadvantaged people in the local community.

In January 2012, Mary Mac’s won the Gosford City Australia Day Volunteer Group community award for their commitment and dedication and enriching the local community.

Summary of Learnings

  • Clients of the program are called “companions” as the volunteers journey with them. The companions also accompany each other
  • The volunteers and co-ordinator seek to get to know their companions, and may refer them to other local services that can be of support
  • They have about 60 volunteers from a variety of sources – including the parish, local businesses, schools, local volunteer agencies
  • Mary Mac’s is truly the work of the community of Woy Woy, it is supported by local benefactors, local businesses and other community groups who support Mary Macs with financial donations and goods



  • Volunteers are provided training and support
  • Each person is treated with dignity and without judgement. A set of guidelines has been developed to provide volunteers with a list of standard practices and acceptable behaviour when working with companions
  • The program is over seen by an advisory group which consists of the Parish Priest, members of the parish, Centacare staff, members of the community and the local State and Federal MP

Catholic Diocese of
Broken Bay

Building 2, 423 Pennant Hills Road
Pennant Hills NSW 2120

PO Box 340
Pennant Hills NSW 1715

Phone 02 9847 0000
Fax 02 9847 0001

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