Contact details for Meal On Wheels
Phone Number 074151 5825
Current and former staff and volunteers of the Bundaberg and District Meals on Wheels will celebrate 50 years of operation this weekend.
The organisation, which grew out of the Lions Club in Bundaberg, was formed in 1966.
Noel Searle, who was one of the founding volunteers, said 11 meals had been delivered on the first day of operation.
“It was nothing like the health and safety we have today, it was very basic,” Mr Searle said.
“The meals were in one big container and the ladies served them to the recipients in their kitchens.”
Mr Searle said the organisation had changed a lot over the years, and now prepared 150–160 meals per day for their clients.
“I am very proud of the fact that we took it on as a project in 1966,” he said.
Challenges faced over the years
In the 50-year history of the organisation, Meals on Wheels has only missed one day of delivering meals to clients.
As volunteers gather this weekend, the devastating flood of 2013 will be one of their most significant memories to be discussed.
Bundaberg and District Meals on Wheels president Peter Donghi said he had only just been appointed president when Bundaberg was inundated with record-breaking floodwaters in January of 2013.
“That was my baptism of fire,” he said.
The organisation lost everything inside its building and had to start again from scratch.
“The cost of rebuilding the facility was in excess of half a million dollars,” Mr Donghi said.
Remarkably the flood only put Meals on Wheels out of action for one day.
With the assistance of Kepnock State High School, the organisation was provided with part of a hall to operate from.
Hot boxes, fridges, freezers and meals were all air freighted from Brisbane.
“On that Tuesday, at the peak of the flood, the last plane into Bundaberg was carrying 800 frozen meals for us,” Mr Donghi said.
“That was the only day we missed delivering meals to our clients and we haven’t missed a day since.”
Volunteering the heart of the organisation
Mr Searle said the remarkable success of the organisation had been due to its volunteers.
“I can’t say enough about the volunteers that keep turning up every day to work,” he said.
“We have been particularly lucky with the volunteers.
“I doubt there would be an organisation anywhere that has as many members that have OAMs as this organisation.”
“We produced 36,000 meals last year alone, and that was just the main meals,” he said.
“On top of that we’ve produced 19,000 desserts and 15,000 soups.”
Working towards the future
Staff and volunteers will have the opportunity to be served on Saturday, instead of serving others.
A special lunch is being held at the Doug Ambrose Hall to mark the golden anniversary.
Eighty guests will be reuniting to celebrate the organisation’s remarkable achievements.
But while the weekend will be set aside to celebrate the past, Mr Donghi said the organisation would continue to work towards the future.
“With governments now very committed to keeping the elderly in their own homes, our work is needed more now than ever before,” he said.
“A lot of our clients aren’t able to provide for themselves, so that’s where Meals on Wheels comes to the fore.”
Four months ago Meals on Wheels in Bundaberg expanded its delivery service by establishing a sub-branch on the Discovery Coast.
“We had a lady who could see a need for that area and we are now providing meals to a lot of elderly people in Miriam Vale, Baffle Creek, Rosedale, all of those isolated communities,” Mr Donghi said.
He said the organisation would continue to work towards expanding its delivery service throughout the region.