Creative solutions for a non profit in Sydney

April 04, 2017

Our series of posts continues from Sydney…today Shannon Loew shares his experience volunteering there and the unique real estate vision from the non profit Our Big Kitchen…

I volunteered today at a soup kitchen run by an exciting Jewish organization called, Our Big Kitchen (OBK, as they call it), founded by a Rabbi Mordi Slaven. Unlike many soup kitchens, Rabbi Slaven created a model that produces food to distribute out to other organizations that feed the hungry while educating corporations and school kids on the value of their mission. OBK is a large 5,000 square foot commissary style kitchen with a front space to host collaborative cooking events. Companies and classes come and participate in guided programs learning about diverse religions and local vulnerable populations all while helping to prepare food that’s then delivered out to shelters, hospitals, and other hunger relief organizations.

Today, a school of fifth graders were here to make hamantaschen and create cards for folks at a local hospital in celebration of Purim. It was pure organized chaos with 65 boys and girls pounding, rolling and shaping dough into little triangular pockets of jam. Some were triangles, others were triangularly challenged.  But each had ample jam, no doubt, and if the volume of their din was any indication of effort, these kids were all in. While the cookies baked, the kids made cards and learned about the value of giving in the Jewish tradition. Then each took a warm cookie as they filed out the door, leaving plenty behind to distribute to their partnering hospital. I also enjoyed one and will say that the less than perfect shape seems to have no impact on the taste!

What’s fascinating about OBK was their real estate strategy. Rabbi Slaven had raised significant funds to help locate his facility, far more than one would need for the TIs in a rented space but not enough to buy a property and build a proper facility. So rather than rent and risk future displacement, Rabbi Slaven got creative with his synagogue: he dug out the foundation and slipped in the OBK facility underneath, creating a whole new lower level for the soup kitchen commissary. You know land prices are tough when construction gymnastics like this work for a non profit.  And as with hamantaschen, seems there’s no one right shape to making a project work.