On the 26th of August, National Meals on Wheels Day will recognise its dedicated volunteer workforce who stepped up to help protect the health and wellbeing of vulnerable Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the first COVID diagnoses came to light, many Meals on Wheels volunteers aged 70 and over were recommended to self-isolate for their own safety, while younger volunteers stood up to support their communities.

Meals on Wheels NSW CEO, Les MacDonald says “National Meals on Wheels day recognises the outstanding contribution of our wonderful volunteers, who ensure older Australians remain nourished and safe at home every day. It has been an uncertain last 12 months, with bushfire devastation and now COVID-19. We offer gratitude and thanks to all our 35,000 volunteers in NSW, and the growing band of individuals and organisations that have come on board who continue to support us. Their efforts have made us stronger and more focussed than ever, and today we celebrate their contribution to our service”.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Government provided vital additional funding which allowed Meals on Wheels services to continue delivering nutritious meals to an increased number of vulnerable members of the community.

“We are so thankful to the Government for supporting us during this uncertain time through the increase in funding,” Eurobodalla Meals on Wheels Manager, Alan Russell said.

“They recognised and reinforced the essential role our service plays in ensuring food security for people in our community,” Mr Russell said.

As part of the annual celebration, Eurobodalla Meals on Wheels will welcome our Mayor (Clr Innes) and two Councillors (Clr Brown and Clr Tait) on a meal delivery run, to see firsthand, the difference Meals on Wheels makes every day.

“The Councillors will meet our volunteers at the Batemans Bay Community Centre. They can see the packing process before they travel with the volunteers to deliver meals to the homes of our clients. The Mayor will meet each group on their return to the Community Centre. We hope that the Mayor will present each volunteer with a small gift from Australia Meals on Wheels and BP Australia as a thank you,” Mr Russell said.
“These gift vouchers are part of a $50,000 thank you gift from BP Australia to volunteers right across the country As a way of honouring our wonderful volunteers.”
Meals on Wheels Australia President, Sharyn Broer says Eurobodalla Meals on Wheels and their volunteers have demonstrated immense resilience through the pandemic, however, the ongoing sustainability of the service is so important.

Recently the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator the Hon. Richard Colbeck MP acknowledged the inequitable distribution of funding and advised Meals on Wheels Australia of an upcoming funding review for meal service providers, within the next 12 months.

“We are pleased the Government has recognised the problem, however, our concerns remain about the timing of the review and the impact this will have on services that are already struggling to remain financially viable,” Mrs Broer said.

These are very strange times and we need to deal with the issues as they arise with confidence and some innovation.

This is what we have been doing and with thanks to our volunteers and clients we have been able to be successful.

We very quickly contacted all our Meals clients and guaranteed delivery of meals to them.We checked with our volunteers as to who was available to deliver and we rewrote our rosters. Week by week we made sure clients and volunteers were happy and safe. The rosters moved from short term plans and became longer in time; and more volunteers returned. With the recent outbreak in Batemans Bay the delivery of meals has been done by paid staff wearing masks and gloves as an extra precaution. Our volunteers have been put on hold for a couple of weeks while community testing takes place.

All our volunteers were asked to wash their hands before they started their delivery and on their return. They were asked to sanitise their hands before and after each client was visited and not to go into peoples homes. If necessary masks were availabe.They had also signed a form stating they were able to deliver meals and happy to do so.

We were staggered by the wonderful response from the community as we had to have five Induction sessions to cover the 30 new volunteers. Due to social distancing we could only have 6 peole at a time in our meeting room. Gradually these new folk are being shown the ropes by experienced delivery people and entering our 'work force'.

Our Group Social Support (Out and About) activities have had to stop. This has been disappointing for us and especially so for our clients. These activities are based in Narooma (Monday), 'any where outside the Shire' for a Lunch About on a Tuesday, Moruya (Wednesday), Batemans Bay (Thursday) and 'any where inside the Shire' for Lunch About on Friday. But at present clients are getting by with phone calls and the occassional visit from staff. 

With thanks to the Batemans Bay Rotary Club our clients have recevied Care Packs during the fires and this pandemic. These are delivered from time to time and are most welcome. Also the toilet paper, and Glen20 organised by New South Wales Meals on Wheels have been well received.

Our Individual Social Support activities have restarted. Volunteers are able to shop for clients and to complete gardening tasks. These do not require lots of contact but the social interaction has been welcomed by clients and volunteers.

PALZ is a new initaiative which happens every two months and is based at Banksia Village. Clients with the onset of dementia, and their carers, meet to hear a fasinating speaker and to share a lovely moring tea. But we have had to stop these great mornings with October hopefully the retart month!

The Wallaga Lake Elders Social Group meets once a month but they too have not been able to meet. The community has been closed to visitors.

So, Eurobodalla Meals on Wheels has been different yet still a very busy place. The volunteers have stepped up to the mark to make sure our clients have what they need. The staff have worked very hard to meet expectations and to provide support and assistance.

Eurobodalla Meals on Wheels has much to be grateful for.

As a small Not For Profit cooperative the organisation looks to the community for its support and assistance.

Over many years this has been given by many people, and community groups which has enabled our Cooperative to develop, grow and serve the community well for a long time.

In the last year this support has been most evident.

The Rotary Clubs of Batemans Bay, Moruya and Narooma, along with the Moruya Jockey Club ran their annual community Christmas Race Day on 22nd December 2019 with Eurobodalla Meals on Wheels and Yumaro as the 'charity' to be supported. The event was well supported by other major sponsors too, especially those who sponsored a race. A presentation was held on 6th March 2020  at the Moruya races. An amazing $24,000 was presented which enabled Eurobodalla Meals on Wheels and Yumaro to jointly purcahse a people mover for transporting clients to events. Travel Team Batemans Bay and Alan May Holden in Moruya contributed significantly to the success of the project and their support is acknowledged too. The new vehicle is in use at present and all these groups are acknowledged on the car.

Eurobodalla Meals on Wheels thanks everyone who bought raffle tickets, sponsored a race, sponsored the Fashions in the Field and who attended the race day itself for contributing to this great gift.

During the Covid-19 virus outbreak, as Eurobodalla Meals on Wheels has been supporting the community, so the community has stepped up and offered wonderful support again.

As client numbers grew, and some volunteers had to stop working for awhile, community members called and offered their services. While the additional assistance has not been needed to date but the list of names has not been lost and contact will be made!

The volunteers have been amazing throughout the bush fires and now this virus outbreak. They contuinue, everyday, to step up and set about serving the community as cheerfully as they possibly can. The volunteers start at 40 years of age and go through to their early 80s, but at present those over 70 are limited in what they can contribute. How lucky is the Cooperative for these people and their pleasant ways. They bring a smile to each meal delivery and brighten up the lives of all clients.

The Board is made up of volunteers. These seven men and wormen give freely to make sure our Cooprerative is working well and meeting the targets set by the Government through our funding agreement. The Board, and its three subcommittees, is active, deliberate and thoughtful in the Governance of our organisation. They meet monthly and look carefully at strengthening the work done by our paid and unpaid staff.

The staff are a corenerstone to the Cooperative. We are very lucky with the team we have in place and the care and concern they show to our clients, volunteers and the community. They have worked very hard during the bush fires and continue during this virus outbreak. Their thoughtful ways have seen us provide for those in need and who wished for assistance. We can not thank them enough for what they do each day and the joy they have brought in ou community.

Eurobodalla Meals on Wheels says thank you to the community for keeping us in their minds and hearts. We do appreciate everyones efforts, contributions, support, generosity and kindness. 

I heard a comedian say, "Bring back 2019 as I don't like 2020!"

I thought...NO!! 
I do not really wish to live through the beginning of this year again! There has been one disaster after another and knowing what we have had, I really do not wish to do it again.

Eurobodalla Meals on Wheels has handled these disasters very well. We have always kept our clients as the core of our operation and through these disasters this has very much been our focus everyday. We have found ways to make sure they have their meals and social supports as much as possible.

During the fires some staff sought shelter in office and were able to quickly assist clients. We did send meals to clients, to volunteers, to the RFS, to the evacuation centres, to the hospital and to a community freezer in Batemans Bay. Then the power was lost and our three freezers went down. However by 9 January, one day after we were due to start delivering in the  new year, we had food and it was on its way to clients. Power in Moruya was back and we could restock our freezer. We thank our suppliers for getting meals through to us. We were able to supply our clients regularly again, even if the choice was not from our full menu of 62 items.

Then we got the rain! It was heavy in parts and some deliveries were difficult to deliver, but we managed.

The Corona-19 virus is a very different story for everyone however. The restirctions from the National Cabinet have seen clients and volunteers having to stay at home. Volunteers have to be under 70 years of age (unless they signed a special waiver). Our Group Social Support activities (Out and About) had to close. Most of our Individual Social Support work had to stop unless there were very special circumstances. PALZ and our Elders Group at Wallaga Lake also had to stop. But we are keeping in touch with everyone through different channels.

We had over 50 new clients over the two weeks of Easter. They have continued to enjoy our meals and remain with us.

We have been greatly supported by members of the community offering to be a volunteer and we will be following up on these kind offers.

We have been able to get meals to everyone, but it has seen a small change to our delivery system. This does not appear to have affected anyone too much and we thank those on the particular routes for their cooperation.

We have been able to get toilet paper and Glen20 cleaner (from May) to our clients and we thank the sponsors for these products -Woolworths and Reckitt Benckiser.

Our Board has continued to meet through various social platforms and the Cooperative is in great heart.

The drought brought difficulties to our community and the fires, rain and virus just added new issues. But the Eurobodalla Shire senior residents have risen to the challenges and are coming through well. Congratulations.

Thank you to our suppliers, volunteers and especially to our staff for their wonderful work, commitment and big smiles.

The Board has always wanted the Cooperative to be well known within the community, and to be highly visible.

They have looked at ways of acheiving this including relocating to a bigger site within Moruya and even beyond.

After much thought the decision was taken to stay in the present office and to include the empty premises next door.

The owner engaged a builder to cut a hole in the wall and installed doors between the two spaces. An internal wall in the existing office was removed and the office 'opened up'. The new spaces have enabled the Cooperative to look carefully at how business is conducted and how it can grow.

Our Group Social Support work will now go to five days a week with the new office arrangements allowing for a Wednesday group to be started. This is exciting news and will greatly assist the need we have for this type of support of our older people.

Gradually the developments will occur such as new signwriting on the doors, internal painting and some furniture upgrades.

But to date, the changes are very exciting, capturing the attention of clients and volunteers as well as the public as they go past.

Our changes have been noted, and we are being seen.

About Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels is a household name and of course we do provide meals to people in their home, but did you know we are offer more than just a meal?  We also provide support to people to maintain and expand their social connections, through our Out and About Centre and through other in home social sevices. See our service page for more details