DRIVEN TO HELP: Meals on Wheels volunteer driver Judy Riddell and navigator Rita Langer.
DRIVEN TO HELP: Meals on Wheels volunteer driver Judy Riddell and navigator Rita Langer. Rob Williams

Compassion on the menu

IMAGINE living alone, being frail and aged, and unable to cook for yourself.

Think about the isolation that stems from those circumstances, and the comfort of having someone visit every weekday.

That's why Meals on Wheels is one of the most important of community services in Ipswich.

It's a measure of the regard in which MoW is held that 180 volunteers help out in the kitchen and on deliveries at the service's South St base.

Ipswich MoW is in the happy position of being "fairly well off for volunteers at the moment", according to manager Jane White.

Although that can change quickly with helpers becoming sick and going on holidays.

Volunteers work no set hours, purely giving the amount of time they choose to give.

Rita Langer fronts up every second Tuesday, for at least an hour.

It's probably close to two hours by the time the volunteers have caught up over scones and cups of tea.

Rita has been with Ipswich MoW for just over 15 years and joined with Judy Riddell, her driver and friend of 38 years.

Many of the clients Rita sees are younger than she is.

"You get to know them," she says.

"They're usually waiting for you to come."

That daily visit "cheers people up", Rita thinks.

Like many other MoW volunteers, Rita lends her support to other organisations.

For 43 years, she's been a fixture at the Blair State School tuckshop, and Norths Leagues Club has had the benefit of Rita's generous nature for decades.

Another Ipswich woman of note, Rhoda Cameron - together with her friend Mrs Russell - started a "Meals on Wheels" service in 1956 from her backyard.

She had been on an overseas trip to England, where she saw a form of meals service in operation and felt this was something needed in her own community to feed the poor.

Government subsidies or grants weren't available then, so Rhoda (wife of the then Commonwealth health minister and member for the Oxley Donald Cameron) served meals from a thermos flask and pudding basin for the cost of two shillings (20 cents) per meal.

Nowadays, clients pay $8 for soup, meal, dessert, a piece of fruit and juice - and the Federal Government contributes $2.55 for each meal.

Growing from acts of generosity like Rhoda's small backyard kitchen, MoW now delivers an estimated 14.8 million meals each year with more than 78,700 volunteers to about 53,000 recipients Australia-wide.

Financially, Ipswich MoW is keeping its head above water, Jane says.

The service prepares about 800 fresh meals a week, and can supply frozen meals to clients for the weekend if needed.

"I think one of the main benefits is daily contact, someone to just have a check on them," Jane adds.


Monday, June 30: World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Ipswich City Council in partnership with the Ipswich and West Moreton Seniors' Services Network stages The Great Debate - should seniors spend their kids' inheritance?

At the Ipswich Civic Centre, 9am till noon. This free event will include lucky door prizes, morning tea, information stalls and a live performance by The Police Pipes and Drums Band.

Wear something purple to show your support for the day.

Phone 3810 6646 for details or email kbrowne@ 

If your club or group would like a mention in the Senior Matters column, email or phone 0411 622 720.

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