The contributions of community-minded supporters have prompted Omnicare Alliance to show gratitude - with baked treats.
To mark National Volunteer Week 2020, the not-for-profit service provider has been thanking its unpaid helpers for their efforts to support vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals in the Mid North Coast region.
Around 600 volunteers commit free time regularly to undertake such tasks as preparing, packing or delivering meals; assisting with administration; helping to run group activities and excursions; and even doing odd jobs at many of Omnicare's various sites. The Manning Valley Meals Service (formerly Meals on Wheels) and Great Lakes Meals Service branches are part of the Omnicare network.
Staff at its Meals Service kitchens baked biscuits as tokens of thanks. These were handed out with certificates of appreciation.
Head of Meals Service, Alvena Ferguson, paid tribute to the volunteers that show up to help out at seven branches between Sawtell and Forster.
"I can't speak highly enough of them all," she said. "They're the lifeblood of our operations.
"They come from all walks of life, and what they all have in common is a strong sense of community, care and compassion.
"Volunteers play a vital role in helping many of our 1000 or so clients to maintain connected to their communities. For some clients, it's the only social interaction they have each week."
Omnicare Meals Service - a member of Meals on Wheels NSW - delivers around 2800 meals a week.
The pandemic has caused a fluctuation in Omnicare volunteer numbers.
Federal Government guidelines resulted in many aged 70 years and over choosing to self-isolate. Others with health conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19 chose also to remain at home. There have also been some over 80 years 'retiring' after decades of service.
"There was a decrease of about a quarter of our volunteers when restrictions came in," Ms Ferguson said. "Our support workers have filled many of the gaps.
"But we've welcomed new volunteers. It's been wonderful to see younger people among them. Our elderly clients have really enjoyed that.
"We've started to see a lot of volunteers returning now."
Former pathology scientist Graeme Rose is a recent recruit. Prior to pandemic restrictions he was heavily involved with Manning Wallamba Family History Society.
"I was looking to spend my spare time usefully," he said. "Two hours a day, twice a week seemed attractive.
"After working at Taree Base Hospital, I worked for a solar panel company, which brought me into contact with a lot of elderly people across the Manning Valley that had little contact with others.
"Delivering meals gives clients an opportunity to have contact, so it's been very rewarding to volunteer."
Omnicare Meals Service encourages anyone interested in volunteering to call Alvena Ferguson on 0401 608 240, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
To enquire about volunteering roles elsewhere in the organisation visit: https://omnicare.org.au/working-us/get-involved/volunteering