National Volunteer Week 2020 kicked off on Monday and runs until Sunday, May 24. Despite this year's challenges, Volunteering Australia CEO, Adrienne Picone, said celebrating Australia's army of volunteers has never been more important. "Volunteers are a vital part of the response to the situation currently and into the future," she said.
With around 120 of these critical volunteers, Blue Mountains Food Services (BMFS) is a not-for-profit charitable organisation that provides a range of programs and services to residents of the region. These include aged care services, disability services, volunteering opportunities and the Ben Roberts café in Lawson which supports people with a disability. To support these daily services volunteers pitch in to help in a myriad of ways.
BMFS is a proud member of the NSW Meals on Wheels association and a registered NDIS provider, with over 20 years' experience in the community, disability and hospitality sector. "Our services focus on meeting the nutritional needs of our clients while addressing the issue of social isolation by engaging clients in social activity and inclusion," general manager Martin Gardiner said.
Prior to COVID-19 volunteers with BMFS would normally be involved in the following:
- Frozen meal delivery to over 160 clients from Laptone to Mount Victoria. They also offer freshly prepared salads and sandwiches plus scones with jam and cream direct from the Ben Roberts Cafe Lawson.
- Helping out in community restaurants with preparation, serving and cleaning. These restaurants offer clients over 65 low-cost, freshly cooked meals.
- Offering social support through simply having a coffee and chatting with clients, taking them shopping or to the movies, etc.
- Helping NDIS participants in the Cook + Connect group cooking programs as well as helping in the men's over 65 cooking group.
- Administrative support.
"It is quite simple - we could not provide the services we do from the money we receive from the government or the programs we provide without the support of volunteers," Mr Gardiner said. "As an indication of the labour hours that our volunteers contribute, during 2019 volunteers helped us with about 12,000 hours of support. If we costed that at $30 per hour, then the benefit is significant each year."
Mr Gardiner also thanked the Blue Mountains community for the great number of those who offered help in trying times. "In the March-April period we received over 70 offers of help," he said. "Many of these were only during the COVID-19 period, but several have indicated they may be interested in longer term opportunities."