Volunteer now a recipient

HELPING HANDS: Marjory Sullivan who was a Meals on Wheels volunteer for over 20 years now enjoys regular deliveries from volunteers Susan and Garry Stephenson.
HELPING HANDS: Marjory Sullivan who was a Meals on Wheels volunteer for over 20 years now enjoys regular deliveries from volunteers Susan and Garry Stephenson.

Bega Valley Meals on Wheels is celebrating the huge milestone year that marks the 60th diamond anniversary year of the delivery of the first Meals on Wheels from Sydney Town Hall in 1957.

And while the Bega Valley service hasn’t notched up 60 years yet, in its 47 years of operation the service has delivered thousands of meals around the shire.

The service relies heavily on its volunteers and there are over 200 active volunteers in the Bega Valley delivering 1700 frozen meals every month.

One of the recipients is Marjory Sullivan, of Pambula who for over 20 years was a volunteer herself delivering around the Pambula area.

At that time the meals were fresh rather than frozen as they are now.

“We would pick everything up from Pambula Hospital where the meals were all cooked. Now everything is frozen and we can order what we want from a menu but then it was a set menu,” Marjory recalled.

“It was a huge affair because we had this big heated container for the soup and the servings were measured out very precisely so you had to be careful not to be too generous with the first people otherwise there would be nothing left for the last person on the round,” Marjory said with a laugh.

After the hospital stopped cooking the meals, the job was taken over at Jigamy and Bega Valley board member Susan Stephenson, who now delivers to Marjory, said the meals were “beautifully cooked” there.

In the Bega Valley meals are delivered by volunteers to clients from Bega  to Bermagui, Candelo, Bemboka, Pambula, Eden, Tura and Merimbula.

The frozen meals come from Wagga Wagga and are delivered to distribution points around the valley for pick up by volunteers who provide a friendly face and support when delivering "more than just a meal".

The service supports frail aged and disabled residents to continue to live independently within their own homes and communities.

In December 1969 a committee was formed to evaluate the possibility of a home delivered meal service in Bega by a small group of community members who believed that there was a need for home delivered meals for people who were unable to cook for themselves. The first deliveries started in February 1970. 

Over time there were eight meal services established in Merimbula, Tathra, Pambula, Eden, Bermagui, Candelo and Bemboka.  Each of these services was independent, and was entirely managed and run by volunteers.  

In May 1993 a cooperative was formed by the amalgamation of the Bega, Candelo, Bermagui and Tathra services. By 2001 the Bemboka, Pambula, Merimbula and Eden services had also joined. Growth funding in 2001 allowed the group to expand services to include social support, respite care, social support and the Veterans’ Community Support Service.  

The co-operative remains community based organisation managed by a voluntary board of directors who are representatives of the Meals on Wheels service areas. 

Bega Valley Meals on Wheels now employs eight staff but all direct service delivery remains in the hands of over 200 dedicated and valued volunteers.