Monthly community dinners begin with a warm reception from Hills locals

Community members enjoying each other's company at Olinda Community House.

By Tyler Wright

The Kalorama Collective have kicked off their monthly community dinners at Olinda Community House, with a large number of locals gathering to enjoy soup made by The Soup Angels and cakes provided by group members.

A warm, cosy camp-fire was the setting for many conversations and catch-ups on the chilly Autumn night on Tuesday 3 May in a sheltered environment – a meeting therapeutic for the soul.

The dinners were planned as part of the Dandenong Ranges’ storm recovery, and at the core of that is bringing locals together to bond and chat.

“The main thing is just connecting with the community, and it’s nice sitting around a fire together; sharing stories,” Kalorama local and member of The Kalorama Collective Alex Grunwald said.

“…. there’s a lot of those shared experiences through the storm and what’s happened since then; talking about insurance problems.”

Alex said the June storm last year was a shock after he awoke to devastation on his street. Trying to get to work, he came across a fallen Oak tree, then a Mountain Ash cutting off the road. Then he saw “one tree after another” on top of property and cars.

“I’ve lived up here my whole life and never seen anything remotely like that,” he said.

“Everyone was walking around in total bewilderment.”

“Then I realized there was no access – no one was able to access us.”

The day after the storm, there was already a relief service group forming to provide the community with essentials like generators and fuel.. Alex walked past some of them on the local oval and has since been a hands on member – cooking barbeques and helping with food drops.

“It’s community members talking to each other making plans on an individual and local community level that is really going to help when disaster strikes,” he said.

Nia Beardsley, Chairperson of The Kalorama Collective, said the first monthly dinner was a success with 50 participants and some coming all the way from areas such as Montrose and Ferny Creek.

“We had people bringing cakes and slices, which was really lovely,” she said.

“We’re going to be gentle and ongoing, So the idea is that we will slowly build our connections

up again…so people feel like they can connect and have someone to share those conversations with.”

The group’s next dinner in June will have live music played by local musicians, and a Youth Committee is on the cards.

Nia has plans to make it a “festive party” for the community and have guest speakers attend at future dinners.

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