Decades of dedication to meal delivery

Seven dedicated volunteers from across the Murraylands have been recognised for their efforts on behalf of Meals on Wheels at a special ceremony earlier this month.

The Governor of South Australia His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le and Meals on Wheels president Bill Coomans presented plaques to Gwen Parbs, Helen Schubert, Kay Dougall, Margaret Warnest, Raeleen Schache, Jill Bishop, and Maxine Bowden on the organisation's Awardee Day on November 13.

Those handed awards were recognised for milestones of 40 years or more given to Meals on Wheels.

Meals on Wheels chief executive officer Sharyn Broer said despite the challenges presented by COVID-19 during 2020, volunteers had "gone above and beyond".

"Our volunteers always put their community first, and in 2020 that selfless spirit has been even more important," she said.

"Our volunteers continue to prepare and deliver nutritious meals as well as carry out welfare checks and social interactions with people in need across the state."

Gwen Parbs and Helen Schubert both belong to the Murray Bridge branch and have reached their 50-year milestone.

Gwen Parbs - Murray Bridge, 50 years

She first heard about Meals on Wheels through her neighbour, who said they were looking for volunteers, while Helen was told about it by her doctor's wife.

As a driver, Gwen checks her car in the morning of a delivery day before getting coffee with her friend and deliverer and heading in to collect and drop off meals.

There has been many changes since Gwen started in 1970; one of the biggest is the soup was originally in large metal pots and served into the customer's own bowls at their house, and the volunteers had to be careful not to spill it in the car.

Gwen said it was rewarding to deliver meals to those who could not cook for themselves, and believed you should always "be grateful for what you have".

Helen Schubert - Murray Bridge, 50 years

She first got involved when her children were at school and she had time on her hands, and hopes to continue delivering as long as she can. She said her role was satisfying and found the staff were dedicated and conscientious. Helen said various changes and improvements had been made over the past 50 years, especially how food was delivered.

Once, she had to drive with another helper, and as she was running late, Helen took on a corner too fast and the custard and the gravy got slightly mixed, resulting in a rather interesting meal.

She is glad the meals are now pre-packaged and labelled meals with no margin for error.

Kay Dougall - Murray Bridge, 45 years

She signed up to Meals on Wheels with a friend, even though she had a four-year-old girl not yet at school.

Her daughter tagged along and enjoyed being part of the visits which Kay loves.

She said sometimes the Meals on Wheels visits were the only contact clients would have with the outside world. As a senior living alone, Kay understands and appreciates something as simple as a chat with another person, especially as people are now staying home more.

She also appreciates the independence the meals provide customers as they can stay in their homes longer.

Margaret Warnest - Murray Bridge, 45 years

She has not always been with the Murray Bridge branch; she first got involved in Kapunda, and volunteered in other country towns before she and her husband Alex settled in Murray Bridge, where she has convinced him to volunteer as well.

She said learning domestic and family duties while staying at home in younger years gave her many skills to be able to volunteer in numerous areas, which gave her great satisfaction.

She said through volunteering she had met people from all walks of life which had fulfilled hers.

Providing nutritious meals and social contact for customers are what she thinks are the main benefits of Meals on Wheels deliveries.

Raeleen Schache - Mannum, 45 years

She is part of the Mannum branch and was celebrated for her 45 years of service, since the second week of the branch's opening.

She was recruited through the Women's Guide when a request for volunteers by the Mannum Hospital Board went out. The meals have been made at the hospital ever since the branch opened.

Sometimes she has been lucky enough to be gifted items in return; one favourite was when a customer handed the volunteers a refreshing bottle of Chandlers soft drink on a hot summer day.

At the busiest point of her Meals on Wheels service, she was delivering to 28 customers in one day.

She still enjoys volunteering, meeting and helping people.

Jill Bishop - Strathalbyn, 45 years

She was on the Strathalbyn branch's first roster for September and October 1975, and has hardly missed a Wednesday delivery day.

Jill joined Meals on Wheels with her farming neighbour Val Ball, after being inspired by Val's husband Peter, who was part of the Rotary Club of Strathalbyn.

Since retiring from farming, both families moved to Strathalbyn township as neighbours again, and the two women continued delivering meals together for a total of 36 years until Val had to call it a day.

Jill delivered with her husband Brian for a short time before she was partnered with Margaret McKenzie, who she has been working with since. She enjoys the regular contact with Strathalbyn's Meals on Wheels customers and her fellow volunteers, who all pick up their meals provided by the hospital at 11.30am.

Maxine Bowden - Strathalbyn, 45 years

She joined the Strathalbyn branch in December 1975 just after it was opened, having been asked by inaugural committee member Joan Critchley to come on board.

She agreed there was the need for the meal service then, and knows there still is today.

When Maxine started delivering meals with Shirley Logan, many of the volunteers were mothers with children still at home, and they had to call on parents to mind the kids while they were on the road.

When Christmas arrived, Shirley brought her two young daughters along and they sang We Wish You a Merry Christmas while meals were served to customers, making everyone's day.

Maxine had found much joy during her delivering of meals, with time to talk with her delivery partner and her valued customers.