Queanbeyan Meals on Wheels volunteer Helen Miller has a definite drive for making sure people in need always have a familiar face to say hello to and has been recognised for doing that for more than 40 years.
Helen still recalls making her first delivery in March 1979, and while the wheels haven’t turned as regularly this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Helen says she loves being one of the 76,000 people who volunteer for Meals on Wheels every day.
“I started doing it for three months and just haven’t stopped,” Helen tells Region Media. “We used to drive around with the big pots of soup and we’d ladle it out at each stop. But our portions were a bit too big and we’d soon find that we’d run out by the time we got to our last couple of stops.”
Helen has lived in Queanbeyan since 1966 and soon immersed herself in the community-natured spirit of the town which has grown substantially, as have the number of people in need of a meal and a friendly, familiar face.
“People appreciate us being there. It’s always more than just a meal – it’s giving something back to the community and going to see people who are happy to see you.
“Maybe one day, we might need it, so it’s nice to know the service is there,” Helen says.
Nationally, Meals on Wheels Australia has been calling for an urgent increase in Commonwealth Home Support Programme funding to ensure the services can continue in the face of significantly greater demand this year.
While additional funding was provided by the Federal Government during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is always a need for more volunteers in the delivery area, which stretches well beyond Queanbeyan to Braidwood, Bungendore, Michelago and Sutton.
The organisation also marked its 50th anniversary in Queanbeyan in April this year, but celebrations had to wait until restrictions allowed the local volunteers to gather to mark the occasion with a meal and Christmas celebration following their annual general meeting.
After seven years as president, Nichole Overall handed the baton to Helen DeBritt, who steps up from secretary and will be looking to continuing to grow the service which delivers up to 1500 meals a month.
Nichole says while she was sad to have to step down from the role as president, she was glad to be leaving it in a healthy state.
“We’re in a good position and the committee we’ve had to this point has been there for a number of years. We’ve got some new people wanting to be involved so it’s good to be able to step aside at a time when a 50-year-old organisation is continuing to grow,” Nichole said.
“The historian in me can’t let go of the fact that this year has been a challenging one as we were so keen to mark the first delivery of a meal here on 28 April 1970, which was about 13 years after Meals on Wheels in NSW began.”
New president Helen DeBritt said there is an opportunity to grow the service to provide a range of supports beyond a meal and a conversation.
“There’s an opportunity to increase our social support service such as community luncheons as our clients love to get out and interact with one another. We can assist with shopping or take people to appointments but it’s not officially part of our agreement, so I’ll be looking to implement that,” Helen says.
“It all depends on our volunteers and the way in which they can help, so we’re always happy to talk with someone wanting to help out in the community.”
People wanting to access Meals on Wheels or who would like to become a volunteer should phone the Red Cross in Canberra on 6234 7663, or 6299 3000 for the Queanbeyan area.