THE 150 meal delivery volunteers of the Bega Valley Meals on Wheels Plus service will be among 80,000 nationwide who will be recognised for their contribution on National Meals on Wheels Day.
The Meals on Wheels (MoW) volunteers or “diamonds”, as they have been described, will take centre stage tomorrow as their enormous community contribution is marked on the 60th National Meals on Wheels Day.
The theme for this year’s national MoW conference is “Diamonds are Forever”.
In the course of a year more than 80,000 MoW volunteers, from 680 services, deliver some 14 million meals to more than 60,000 people Australia-wide.
Within the Bega Valley, Meals on Wheels Plus employs nine staff, has 150 meal delivery volunteers and provides a meals service for 120 people.
“Being a Meals on Wheels volunteer is more than the meal delivery,” Bega Valley MoW Plus manager Fiona Scott said.
“It’s also monitoring and supporting the people they deliver to.”
Australian Meals on Wheels Association president Ron Welsh said the Meals on Wheels service and volunteers across Australia not only provide a nutritious meal to over 60,000 clients each year, but also provide an important community connection through calling at homes each day to provide a cheery welcome, daily contact and monitor the wellbeing of each valued client, hence the national theme - more than just a meal.
“Often their visits can potentially be life-saving as the client may have had a fall or is unwell when the volunteer calls in,” Ms Scott said.
“In such cases it can be quite distressing, but the volunteers follow a procedure as to what they are supposed to do, it’s very much part of their training and orientation.”
Ms Scott said one of the many valued volunteers of the local service deserved particular mention, since he recently retired from volunteering.
“Bob Scott volunteered for Meals on Wheels for about eight years.
“He helped in many ways and was an incredibly loyal and reliable person, a lot of the Meals on Wheels customers always appreciated what he did and enjoyed seeing him,” Ms Scott said.
“It’s very sad that he has finished…we thank him and are going to miss him.”
To celebrate National MoW Day, every MoW client across Australia will receive a commemorative placemat with their meal delivery.
Mr Welsh said National MoW Day marks the real progress the organisation has made from its humble beginnings in South Melbourne, where a lady on a tricycle delivered a few meals to local residents.
While the tradition and values of MoW remain true to its origins 60 years ago, a focus on engaging people of all ages from all walks of life is unfolding and bringing renewed energy, ideas and vision to help the organisation continue to provide a vital service.
Bega Valley MoW extends from Eden, north to Cobargo and inland to the towns of Bemboka and Burragate.
In addition to meal delivery, there are another 80 to 100 volunteers who assist with other tasks within the service such as the regular drop in café, seniors social clubs, shopping buses and veterans services.
Community support is also provided in organising respite for carers and neighbour aid volunteers.
The economic value of the MoW service is in excess of $350 million per year.
While services receive some government funding, they could not operate without volunteers to keep costs down and make meals affordable for clients.
Clients can self-refer to MoW if they believe they may benefit from the service or they can be referred, for example by a health practitioner or family member.
MoW is always looking for new volunteers to contribute just a few hours a fortnight.
A visit to www.mealsonwheels.org.au can put people in touch with Meals on Wheels locally.
Or if you would like to become a volunteer or know someone who might need the service locally, phone food services coordinator Ben Deighan on 6492 4146.