Meals on Wheels’ Happy Valley branch celebrated a special milestone this week, delivering their 500,000th meal.
President of Meals on Wheels SA (MoWSA) and former Happy Valley volunteer, Bill Coomans delivered the meal on Friday the 4th of September, to customer Valerie in her home, south of Adelaide.
He was joined on the delivery by Client Services Coordinator, Angie McCallum and Local Member for Hurtle Vale (Labor), Nat Cook MP.
“This is a special occasion for the Happy Valley branch and I am honoured and delighted to be asked to deliver their 500,000th meal to their esteemed customer, Valerie,” Mr Coomans says.
Having previously lived in the suburb for almost 20 years, Mr Coomans has a strong connection to the Happy Valley branch and Meals on Wheels SA.
“I recall contacting the Chair in 2007 and asking if they needed a hand and began within days as a deliverer – I loved it,” he says.
Over a nine-year period, Mr Coomans volunteered in the kitchen, joined the committee as a Vice-Chair, was Chair of the Happy Valley Branch and Vice President of MoWSA and Meals on Wheels Australia.
“In that time we were able to secure the then Governor-General Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC CVO, who was Patron of Meals on Wheels Australia, to deliver the 300,000th meal back in 2012,” he recalls.
When asked why he enjoys being involved in Meals on Wheels, Mr Coomans says the answer is easy.
“Aside from giving back to the community, it’s also very much about supporting the people in our community who cannot cook or shop for themselves.”
“For us, the Meals on Wheels family, it’s about providing that hot nourishing meal up to five days a week so people can stay in their home where they would rather be.”
“Our visit also means some socialising, when we may be the only ones they see for some time and of course, the visit is our opportunity to ensure that all is well,” he says.
On Friday, Valerie, a Meals on Wheels customer for over 7 years received a bunch of flowers, a box of chocolates and her three-course meal.
“Meals on Wheels means a great deal to me because I have contact with somebody else,” she says.
“When you’re on your own it’s different and having a meal is lovely. I enjoy the fact that I can have a choice in the meal.”
The delivery of her favourite soup made the occasion even more special.
“I’m not a soup person but I love mushroom soup!”
Valerie says her delivery of Meals on Wheels four days a week allows her to remain living independently in her home.
As well as Meals on Wheels, Valerie’s granddaughter takes her shopping and out for lunch once a week.
Client Services Coordinator, Angie McCallum has been volunteering for 22 years and says the people she delivers both to and with, are the reason she continues to volunteer.
“I love meeting the people… especially the older people…you learn so much from them.”
“We’ve got an amazing group of people at Happy Valley and we all get on so well,” she says.
Chair of the Happy Valley branch, Gary McLachlan thanked the wonderful group of volunteers who have helped make this milestone possible.
“The delivery of the 500,000th meal is an achievement for the kitchen and I am proud to be part of a group of over 100 dedicated volunteers, all of whom have contributed to achieving that milestone.”
“I have been Chair of the Branch for three years and it is pleasing to be involved with a friendly group of volunteers who both work and socialise together in harmony and friendship,” Mr McLachlan says.
“I cannot imagine there would be a better group of volunteers in any other branch.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak in South Australia, many branches and its volunteers had to adapt to ensure they could continue supporting vulnerable members of the community during this uncertain time.
“The last six months have been a trying time for all Meals on Wheels staff and volunteers and I am pleased to say the Happy Valley branch has coped extremely well,” Mr McLachlan says.
“We could not have done so without the effort put in by this dedicated group together with assistance of our Branch Services Officers.”
Mr McLaughlin said despite being faced with an increase in demand for meal deliveries, no customers missed out on a meal.
“Our meals delivered have actually increased and we are currently delivering in excess of 575 meals per week.”
He hopes the branch can continue to support many more local residents to live independently and well for many more years to come.