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Service Spotlight: Project Fresh Start

I’ve spoken enthusiastically and often about a nonprofit called The Pollination Project—a grant funding organization that has supported The Smile Project and that I’ve been fortunate enough to work and volunteer for. I’ve also been blessed with many friends, mentors, and peers in the grantee community. Jolene Gailitis is the latest person on that list. Hailing from Australia, Jolene is the founder of Project Fresh Start. I’m thrilled to share her story here.

Liz: Let’s start in traditional Smile Project fashion. Give me a “Happiness is.”

Jolene: Happiness is.. being able to do what you love alongside people that bring you joy, make you laugh, and inspire you to be a better person.

Liz: Tell me about Project Fresh Start.

Jolene: Our project takes food destined for landfill and uses it to make free healthy plant-based meals for our disadvantaged community members through our plant-based community fridge and Saturday Lunch program. We started a couple of years ago just a little group cooking in a street kitchen in the middle of a rundown old apartment complex for low-income renters. We now have about 20 volunteers and cook up to 400 meals a week.

Liz: What’s the driving force behind what you do?

Jolene: A vegan philosophy of kindness to all beings and the planet. I wanted to show that vegan food is for everyone and when you make it with love it will always be received with gratitude and hopefully change some mindsets around plant-based food being only for people who are privileged. The sharing of food is a great way to start conversations around veganism in a safe supportive environment.

Liz: What does service mean to you?

Jolene: Service, to me, means caring about others and working together to create the kind of community where people have what they need and feel like they belong.

Liz: How can people support your work or get involved?

Jolene: You can find us on and Facebook at /projectfreshstart21.

You can help us by spreading the word of what we do to inspire others around the world to start their own projects. We have a volunteer page on our website where new volunteers can register as well as a donation page where people can donate money or grocery items.

Liz: Do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice you’d like to leave us with?

Jolene: Be the change you want to see in the world; the smallest acts can grow into something that takes on a life of its own. The fear of failure is what holds most people back from doing what they love. Only by facing this head-on can you move forward and create something really special. Failure is just a learning experience, not the end game. Just keep moving forward.


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