Service with a smile for 50 years

August 12, 2017

For 50 years, Deniliquin Meals on Wheels has delivered hearty meals and a warm smile to our community.

The local branch is celebrating its golden anniversary this month, while the national organisation is marking 60 years since the first meal was delivered from the Town Hall in Sydney in 1957.

The local cause was established on February 27, 1967 in what was then the Presbyterian Church Hall, on the corner of Edwardes St and Corbett Court.

Reverend Andrew Brown was the president of the group, and the meals were delivered and cooked by volunteers at the Church Hall.

In 1972, the group welcomed a change of residence and began cooking and packing meals at the Deniliquin Hospital kitchen.

‘‘The hospital has been a huge part of our history,’’ Deni Meals on Wheels coordinator Michelle Hand-Beehag said.

‘‘At this time, the government paid a subsidy and the recipients covered a small fee.’’

During the mid-80s, the Community Centre in End St agreed to help as an inquiry and information centre and received the money collected and arranged emergency replacements for volunteers.

‘‘The introduction of disposable containers has been a great asset to the volunteers delivering the meals,’’ it said in a report by former Meals on Wheels president David Martin in 1987 when the organisation celebrated its 20th birthday.

‘‘During the last 12 months, 11,274 meals have been delivered and as it has been for the last 20 years, all done with volunteers and no paid staff or coordinator.

‘‘This has indeed been a great achievement over the years, with tens of thousands of meals delivered by hundreds of volunteers to people in need, enabling them to live in their own homes.’’

Up until about 1989, the service was run by the committee and volunteers and a government subsidy was made available to employ a coordinator to oversee the service.

Shortly after, the hospital kitchen was dismantled and the group transferred operations to an Albury based business.

The meals were prepared and frozen at the Albury Hospital, and local service clubs delivered the meals to Deni-based clients — only on weekends — until 2014.

During this time, fresh meals were also sought from a number of local outlets including the Exchange Hotel to provide clients with hot dishes throughout the week.

This carried on until a contract with the former Divine Foods was created in 2009.

Today, Meals on Wheels is supported by Kurrajong Catering, a local disability service which cooks all the dishes and conducts seven food delivery runs a month.

From small beginnings at the local church, Ms Hand-Beehag said the past half century has seen the local organisation face periods of both growth and hardships.

‘‘After 50 years, Deni Meals on Wheels is still operating which is a testament to its value in the community — there is so much to celebrate and be proud of,’’ she said.

‘‘It continues to be a trusted service in Deniliquin and hopefully will be for another 50 years.’’

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