Need a free meal? Salvos and service clubs have got you covered

Every second Thursday, volunteers serve dozens of free dinners in Murray Bridge.

Every other Thursday at five o’clock, a crowd appears from nowhere and shuffles into a brick building on Fourth Street, Murray Bridge.

Inside is light, music, the buzz of conversation and – through it all – food, the warm, welcoming smell of it.

The meal is free – an initiative of the Salvation Army and the city’s service clubs.

On Thursday, it was the Soroptimists’ turn to put on aprons, stand behind serving tables and share the night's dinner: pumpkin soup, sausages, rissoles and chicken, salad and coleslaw in generous servings.

Numbers had fallen since COVID, they said, but several dozen still came in to fill their stomachs.

There was the bloke taking home an extra snag for his dog, the lady sitting quietly after colliding with a kangaroo in her car, the mother and daughter sharing a meal together and chatting about family.

“It’s very, very good,” said Len Burgess, a volunteer at the nearby Anglican op shop who said he and his friends came every fortnight.

“We come because the Anglican Church supplies toys and clothes (to the Salvos), we do a delivery every week.”

Mary Harris has been cooking the meal – and the various lunches and dinners the Salvos have offered in the past – for the past 11 years.

The service clubs provided some money, she cooked the food and they served it, she said – "it works really well".

A diner leans in behind her: “she’s the best cook around,” she said, “my son come here for a date night every Thursday”.

Before the crowd began to thin out, Jane Truscott began strumming her guitar and singing along with Tim Freund: church classics and popular songs.

After them came Salvation Army Captain Claire Watson with a message from Genesis, sparking a discussion that went on while the servers tidied up.

  • Share a meal: Visit the Salvation Army on Fourth Street, Murray Bridge from 5pm on the first and third Thursday of every month.

Photos of Mary Harris, Natalie Hay and Robin Wilson (top); Marlene Doe, the Northcotts, Chris Terry, Greg Klem and Len Burgess (second from top); Tim Freund and Jane Truscott (third from top); and Claire Watson (bottom): Peri Strathearn.