Fish Hoek Service Centre in need of volunteers, donors

Some volunteers of the Fish Hoek Service Centre trading as Meals on Wheels in the False Bay Hospital kitchen. From left are, recipient coordinator Lucille Payne, cook Daphne Kew, cook coordinator Liz Harrison, recipient coordinator, and acting secretary Caroline Millard, in the back, chairperson and delivery coordinator Ann Tilney, kitchen buyer Roberta Meyer and cook Lesley Skarzynski.

A local NPO, The Fish Hoek Service Centre is looking for volunteers and regular donors.

The organisation which trades as Meals on Wheels and caters to people who are in financial straits, physically ill, or frail, or people who are recovering from an illness and cannot cook themselves, prepares and delivers about 260 meals every month according to chairperson Ann Tilney.

It was established in 1983 and the centre based its service on the national Meals on Wheels guidelines and ethos but operates independently from the National Meals on Wheels organisation.

As such, Ms Tilney said, they receive no funding from the national organisation or from the government.

The organisation started out with 12 recipients and before Covid-19, had about 40 recipients. Everyone on the team which includes cooks, drivers, hoppers, and the maintenance manager are volunteers and use their own vehicles to deliver meals on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the Fish Hoek and Sun Valley areas.

Ms Tilney said there had been a significant decrease in the number of volunteers since Covid-19.

Before the pandemic, she said, the organisation had 100 volunteers but now only 30. The organisation’s funding has also taken a knock since lockdown as some of the regular large donors had withdrawn funding due to Covid-19 and the organisation was unable to fund-raise during the pandemic. As a result, the organisation can now only provide for 20 recipients.

The team operates from a kitchen at False Bay Hospital and three to four cooks prepare a main meal with some fruit and a cupcake, when possible, said Ms Tilney.

A team consisting of a driver and a hopper (a person who hops out of the car to deliver the meals) then collects the cooked food from the kitchen and delivers it to the recipients.

Ms Tilney said prospective recipients are interviewed to ascertain their eligibility and most recipients are in financial straits or physically ill or frail.

“Recipients are then charged for their meals based on a sliding scale and the contribution does not necessarily cover the cost of the meal,” she said.

The rest of the funds are raised by means of donations from businesses and members of the community.

Ms Tilney said a local business owner, Colleen Thomas recently sponsored a deep clean of the kitchen which was a great help as the volunteers are responsible for the cleaning of the kitchen.

“With the current rate of inflation and the increase in the price of food and petrol, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to deliver this service and we are currently operating at a deficit,” she said.

She said while many locals make contributions to Meals on Wheels, a number of the contributions are channelled to the national organisation and not to the service centre as they operate independently from Meals on Wheels.

Ms Tilney said they are appealing to the new, and existing contributors as well as the business community to donate to the Fish Hoek Service Centre directly in order to help Fish Hoek residents benefit from their donations.

The organisation is also looking for cooks, to join the team as well as drivers and hoppers.

Hopper and recipient coordinator Lucille Payne said she loved talking to the recipients. “They really appreciate our service and are always keen for a chat,” she said.

Roberta Meyer who is a kitchen buyer, cook, and driver said they had great fun in the kitchen and any new cook will “certainly enjoy the experience.”

For more information or to donate call Ms Tilney on 082 933 1033.