Written by Kerrie Alexander
Meals on Wheels Fraser Community doesn’t just provide over 110,000 meals every year to 500 clients around the Fraser Coast.
The predominately elderly clients, some of whom don’t have family close by or at all, can’t wait to see the delivery van pull up in the driveway because it means that it’s time for some personal connection with a chat about their day, the weather, their health … any conversations that help reduce isolation and loneliness.
These are all very important elements of the service to Ray Fleming who has volunteered for over 20 years.
“My relatives were volunteers with Maryborough Meals on Wheels and when I finished work, I thought that it would be a good organisation to get involved with and so I did … and then I never got around to leaving,” Ray said with a laugh.
It was only just recently that the 80-year-old stepped down from his duties as President, which he took on back in 2003.
Ray has covered just about every volunteer position possible like being behind the BBQ many times cooking sausages for fundraisers, hosting monster garage sales, delivering meals, helping in the kitchen, and making management decisions.
Even from small beginnings making 10 meals a week from the Presbyterian Church Hall to the 100sqm Gosner St kitchen, to the $1.8 million 500sqm facility on Islander Rd in Pialba today, Ray said there has always been one constant.
“I always recount a story of going to one of our clients years ago,” Ray said.
“When we got there, she always had a big smile on her face, gave us a big hug and said how wonderful it was to see us.
“It really makes your day when you get that sort of reaction.”
Ray said the not-for-profit organisations slogan of “More than just a Meal” is simple in its wording but vitally important in how the staff and volunteers look after the welfare of their clients.
Especially during the COVID-19 Pandemic when personal contact was at a bare minimum.
“It’s been difficult with COVID because we could only stand at the door and have a chat, but prior to that we knew the clients who were remiss in terms of their refrigeration or clients that hadn’t been eating their meals because you could see they had been stacking up.
“That’s where the interaction from meals on wheels comes in; it’s like a welfare check.
“It’s so important that we physically see them and check on them.
“It’s the overall personal satisfaction that you are helping other people and volunteering for an organisation that does care for their clients.
“We’re not driven by profit. We are a not-for-profit organisation and that’s what I’m about.”
MOWFC Manager Maria Daye said the hard work and commitment from Ray and all the volunteers is what keeps the organisation running.
There are only 13 paid staff across the Hervey Bay and Maryborough sites with the rest of the kitchen, administration, delivery, and cleaning positions filled by volunteers.
It is one of the largest MOW delivery services in Queensland.
“One lady is 81 and is still delivering meals and is on the management committee,” Maria said.
“There is a very big variety of people that volunteer here but the big thing is that most people that come here, want to be here.
“It’s a great community service and the volunteers that work here get a really good feeling from it and really like it.
“There’s lots of volunteer positions like answering phones, work in the kitchen plating the meals … they don’t have the direct contact like others do on deliveries, but they are still very involved in the whole process.
“It takes a team to keep the service running and they all play a very important role.
“People are trying to stay in their own homes longer and top-quality nutritious food is a keystone of that; it’s essential.
“And you can’t run this place without volunteers it just simply wouldn’t happen.”
MOWFC currently cooks around 10,000 meals monthly with 6,000 for Hervey Bay and 4,000 for Maryborough clients.
Maria said they would welcome anyone interested in taking on a role with welcome arms, even if it’s just a few hours.
“We have 180 volunteers but some of those aren’t active and just come in here and there, or just for a few hours or even just once a month.
“We are always looking for more volunteers who can help out once a month, once a week or every day if they like.”
Volunteers would help distribute meals from the Hervey Bay kitchen to clients in River Heads and through the city suburbs to Howard, Torbanlea, and Burrum Heads.
They deliver throughout the greater Maryborough area, plus Aldershot, Oakhurst and as far south as Poona.
Clients are spoiled for choice with a choice of soups, main meals, salads, sandwiches, and desserts.
All dietary requirements plus ethnic and personal preferences are catered for, and meals can be blended or cut up to suit the client’s needs.
“Years ago, a lot of people when they got older, they went into aged care facilities but now people are trying to keep the elderly at home for as long as they can so being able to provide texture modified meals has become a large part of our service,” Maria said.
“The dietary requirements of our clients are very important.”
Meals are supplied in hygienic disposable containers and can be delivered hot (in Hervey Bay only), chilled or frozen. To find out more or volunteer visit www.mowfc.org.au or phone 4128 1334.