FOR almost four decades, Tea Gardens Hawks Nest Meals on Wheels (MOW) has been providing a much-needed service to the older residents in the area.
The organization has grown considerably from its humble beginnings in the Uniting Church Hall kitchen in Tea Gardens in 1984.
In the first year of operation about 100 meals were produced and delivered per week, compared to about 500 meals now.
There have been many changes and improvements made over the past 37 years.
Within the first ten years MOW outgrew the Uniting Church Hall kitchen and the Council received a grant in 1992 to build a new kitchen at the present location at the Hawks Nest Community Hall.
Meredyth Rae, the Office Manager at Tea Gardens Hawks Nest MOW began as a volunteer driver at Bulahdelah.
Meredyth has seen many changes in the 20 years she has been involved in the organization.
After initially volunteering as a deliverer, she spent many years coordinating the Bulahdelah service, then was offered the position of Office Manager at Tea Gardens Hawks Nest four years ago.
She explained that the biggest change has been the introduction of frozen meals.
“I baulked at frozen meals at first, especially for Bulahdelah, but they became more popular with the clients.
“From a delivery perspective it is much easier to keep meals frozen and much easier to deliver.”
Initially only Tea Gardens Hawks Nest, Pindimar and Bundabah received meals before Karuah joined in 1988 and Bulahdelah with frozen meals in 2009.
Hot meals are still delivered on a Monday to Tea Gardens Hawks Nest.
The cost of the meals were $2 in 1984 and after a few minimal increases over the years are now $8 and $10 with a dessert.
Winsome Dorrington has been volunteering at Tea Gardens Hawks Nest MOW since 2003. The biggest changes she has seen is the growth in numbers of meals and clients.
“When I started, we didn’t have the quantity of meals we have now.
“We are providing so many more meals than we used to.”
Winsome is very proud of the fact that Tea Gardens Hawks Nest MOW cook their own meals.
“Most meals for Meals on Wheels are cooked commercially these days.
“We are one of very few that do our own cooking and the meals are lovely.”
Winsome cooked in the kitchen until 2-3 years ago.
“I was cooking every week from 7am until lunchtime.
“When I turned 75, I decided to just deliver the meals with my husband Laurence,” she said.
Judy Poole is another volunteer who is passionate about the service.
So much so that she has been volunteering for four years in the kitchen as well as delivering meals and is also on the committee.
She loves the flexibility of volunteering and the interaction with the clients; however, she is most impressed with the running of the kitchen.
“The thing that has impressed me from the beginning is the care given in preparing the meals, it’s amazing.”
Judy said that approximately 200 meals per morning are prepared with the chef making sure everything is done correctly.
“The presentation is everything as well as the nutritional value. It’s a labour of love, I guess.”
With the increase in meals to deliver, the introduction of meals available to purchase at the kitchen door began about five years ago and has been very popular.
The expansion of Tea Gardens Hawks Nest Meals on Wheels over 37 years is a tribute to all of the organizers and volunteers who work tirelessly to provide this much needed and important service to the older residents in our local area which helps keep them living in their own homes for longer.
Those interested in volunteering can contact the office on 49970800.
By Annette YARNOLD