Vannie retires after 44 years’ service

Frank Mullins (ABC News/Rachel Clayton)

For 44 years, Frank Mullins has been preparing and handing out food from the St Vincent de Paul Society’s soup van to Victorians facing tough times. Source: ABC News.

Mr Mullins, 81, has served businessmen in suits, children with their mothers, young couples with nowhere else to go, and even old school friends.

The Vinnies soup vans were started by university students Anne O’Brien and Chris Knight in 1975. They served homemade soup and sandwiches to men around Smith and Gertrude streets suffering from alcoholism. Mr Mullins became a “Vannie” two months later.

Today, Vannies serve people on the street in eight locations around Victoria, and visit social and public housing apartments, carrying soup, sandwiches, and hot pastries up flights of stairs to serve people at their door.

But after more than four decades, it’s time to rest, Mr Mullins, says.

“I’m too old for it. It’s too much effort, and I want to give it up while I still have something to give.”

Patrick has been coming to the soup van for three years and is now a close friend of Mr Mullins.

“What could you say that isn’t nice about him? He’s a gentle man, friendly, doesn’t knock anyone back, obliging,” he says.

While many come for the food, just as many come for the company.

“There’s drugs, there’s alcohol, but loneliness, the biggest problem is loneliness,” Mr Mullins says. “If you sit on their bed for three minutes and chat, they’re so happy.”

Last year, 256 Footscray Vannies provided 62,121 meals and delivered thousands of blankets, sleeping bags, personal care and toiletry packs to people in need.

Vinnies celebrated the 30th birthday of the Footscray van this week and paid tribute to the remarkable contribution Mr Mullins had made to the organisation.

Vinnies’ Victorian chief executive Sue Cattermole says while it would be great if there was no need for the soup vans, the need for them is “greater today than ever”.

“Volunteers such as Frank Mullins are the foundation-stones of St Vincent de Paul Society’s ‘good works’ and he is truly an inspiration to us all,” she says.


Vinnies soup van volunteer Frank Mullins hangs up his high-vis (ABC News

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