I started volunteering at Meals on Wheels in March 2016. Each year, Telstra employees were paid one day a year to do voluntary work within the community. I have been interested in cooking for years and had a small catering business for 10 years, as well as working full time. I came across Meals on Wheels and decided to do my one day of volunteering there. West Torrens was my closest Meals on Wheels branch and the day I went there, I walked in and there were three ladies preparing food, but no one to make the sweets. I made the chocolate cake. I really enjoyed it and they made me feel welcome.
Two years later when I decided to leave Telstra and close my catering business, I found out that I could do voluntary work and not have to look for employment so I decided to come to Meals on Wheels. I enjoyed it right from the beginning. I got on well with the Branch Support Officer (Alois) and was (and still am) willing to learn more. Because of my previous experience I was soon made ‘cook of the day’ which meant I was responsible for cooking the two main meals and ensuring everything was done by a certain time. It was challenging but fun!
After some time I started asking questions about the other side of the process, such as the ordering, how the numbers were calculated, route sheets and delivery, etc. I was interested in working in the office but not prepared to work longer hours at that time. I did, however, make a concerted effort to learn what I could anyway.
By chance I heard about a Branch Coordinator job at Port Adelaide and I applied for the role. I was unsuccessful but I continued volunteering and a few months later was advised that there was a Branch Coordinator role available at West Torrens. I applied and at the age of 63 was successful in December 2019.
As a Branch Coordinator, I am responsible for the day-to-day running of the kitchen, ensuring all the health and safety procedures are followed and that the meals are prepared and cooked by a certain time, so that meals are packed ready for the deliverers to leave at 11am. I am also responsible for the smooth running of the kitchen and ordering the groceries, reconciling the meal delivered for charging, allocating new customers to the routes and any day-to-day changes/cancellations and cooking, if required.
Within a few months, the database was upgraded and everything changed. Previously, everything was done manually by different volunteers and each person did not know what the other did. I was trained on the database and there has been no going back. Over time I have been training volunteers in all aspects of my role so that they can take over, if necessary. Each day is the same but different and that’s what makes it interesting and enjoyable.
As a volunteer, I really enjoyed the feeling of community and fun in the kitchen and that we were creating a nutritious meal for people who were not able to cook for themselves. I was very pleased to be able to have the time to volunteer and think everybody who can, should do some volunteering. I think it makes us more aware of people less fortunate than us and also allows us to appreciate just how lucky we are. You also learn new skills.
The moment that sticks with me most is the day that started me on this journey of volunteering with Meals on Wheels. I was a total stranger and made to feel welcome and part of a team. As an employee, there have been many times in the last 20 months that customers have expressed thanks and appreciation of our meals, which is very rewarding and makes me proud of my kitchen and the great volunteers we have.