Hundreds of volunteers who make up the army of cooks, drivers and delivery people serving up tempting fare every day across the Moreton Bay Region celebrated a National Meals on Wheels Day with a difference today.
Plans for themed celebrations and barbecues serving dozens of volunteers have been scuppered due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the day is no less significant.
Pine Rivers Meals on Wheels business manager Wendy Smith says an invitation to a barbecue for the service’s 303 volunteers drew more than 170 acceptances, but when new restrictions on gatherings were announced, the team knew they had to come up with a creative solution.
“When we’re only allowed 15 people in our whole kitchen, we knew we couldn’t hold a massive barbecue any more,” Wendy says.
Instead, volunteers will be able to attend a six-day marathon of morning barbecues in two weeks’ time – with restricted numbers - as a way for the service to say thank you.
Pine Rivers Meals on Wheels has come up with other creative solutions since the outbreak of COVID-19. Its kitchen usually has about 32 workers, but with numbers limited to 15, they now work in staggered shifts to ensure 4200 meals can be made each month.
“And we’ve gone from 286 clients to 397 just since COVID,” Wendy says.
At Deception Bay Meals on Wheels, the team was touched by a thoughtful card from grateful client Norma, who expressed thanks for the cheery volunteers who delivered her meals.
President Des Dewar holds the distinction of being the longest-serving volunteer with the group, having notched up 36 years.
The former baker from Toowoomba was living at Burpengary and suffering from cancer, when a chap asked him if he’d be willing to drive to Deception Bay to collect meals to take to the Burpengary area.
“I said I’d give it a go….and I’m still here,” Des laughs.
Eventually Burpengary opened its own kitchen, by which time the co-ordinators at Deception Bay were moving on for health reasons and Des stepped in to fill the breach. He’s been there ever since, motivated by “getting out of bed and coming in to work”, as well as knowing he’s making a difference in the community.
It’s a sentiment shared by Wendy Cox, who has volunteered for about 10 years.
“I felt like I needed to help out – and I love the people we deliver to,” Wendy says.
Fellow volunteer Michelle Edwards says the Deception Bay service tries to cater for most people’s needs.
“The most popular is fish and pies Fridays – if we cancelled that we’d be in trouble,” she says.
Every year, 10,000 volunteers deliver more than 2 million meals to more than 15,000 people across Queensland.
Deception Bay Meals on Wheels: 24 volunteers, more than 12,000 meals a year
Pine Rivers Meals on Wheels: 303 volunteers, more than 50,000 meals a year
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