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12 December 2021
Danny gives hope and dignity to others after overcoming his own battles.
Words Naomi Singlehurst
“For me, life is all about trying to give a little bit of connection and hope to others in need.”
So says Danny, a Salvation Army worker and volunteer supporting others this Christmas. Danny has experienced many of the challenges faced by those he now supports – homelessness, physical and mental health issues, poverty, and isolation –and understands the importance of kindness and care.
Danny leads a team of volunteers at the Salvos’ Sydney Congress Hall, supporting many who are experiencing homelessness or who live in boarding houses in Sydney’s inner city. Many in the community also struggle with unemployment, physical and mental health issues, poverty, and isolation.
The Salvos team, under Danny’s leadership, has adapted to operate safely within COVID-19 guidelines. Their service includes meals, referrals to specialist services, pick-up and distribution of donated goods, ‘Hope Dinner’ outreach, and more.
“One evening [recently], I went out with four of our team to give a meal to homeless people sleeping rough,” he shares. “As well as the meal, we were able to give sleeping bags and warm jackets to people in desperate need of these items."
Over the past two years, lockdowns and restrictions have severely impacted small businesses and casual workers in the inner city, creating even more need in the local community.
“Whether it be through a Christmas dinner or picking up gifts from donors and distributing them, we try to make Christmas really special,” Danny says.
In one of many moments that have left a lasting impression on him, Danny tells the story of a parent who came in by bus for Christmas food and gifts for her children and could not carry much.
“She was crying and emotional [as] she was picking out some small gifts, so we arranged for her to be driven home so that she could take more than she could carry. Upon hearing this, she burst into tears again – but they were happy tears.”
Danny’s passion for helping others springs from personal experience.
He hit rock bottom many times during a long battle with drugs. There were times when he experienced homelessness and was alone and frightened. His lowest moment came when his addiction left him unable to walk his beloved daughter down the aisle on her wedding day.
“When I was about 17, I started smoking marijuana, and then it moved to ecstasy and a bit of cocaine and ice,” he explains. “I held my first job as a locksmith for 19 years, but I lost it in the end. I was in a 14-year-relationship with my partner and my kids, and I lost that, too.”
Danny entered the Salvos’ William Booth House recovery services centre, completed the 10-month recovery program, but relapsed. He then went through the Salvos’ Dooralong Transformation Centre and has been free from drug use for many years.
“I really am so lucky,” he says. “I meet a lot of people who say, ‘My family don’t want to know me’, because, in addiction, people put their family through the wringer and push them away. I am so lucky that my girls, my sisters, my brothers – my family – have been very supportive the whole time.
“I [also] have seven beautiful grandchildren and am so privileged to be able to be a part of their lives, too.”
Danny’s partner Kylie also works with the Salvos. They are both passionate about serving people in the community and are a vital part of the Sydney Congress Hall ‘family’.
“I come from a pretty big, extended, blended family and, for me, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus and being with loved ones – family and friends,” Danny says. “I’ve been so lucky with the examples I’ve had around me, showing me that the more I serve people, the more my faith grows.
“For me, my life and faith are all about giving back, helping others and loving others. What is so great is that you get back so much more than you give anyway!”