Community, Human Interest

A century of service

Two long-serving volunteers are celebrating more than a century of serving up sustenance with Meals on Wheels.

Best Friends and Red Cross volunteers Janet Clarke and Bev Lucas from Blenheim first started with Meals on Wheels in 1969.

And the duo is still delivering meals as they get set to celebrate a milestone anniversary later this year, with 101 years of service between them.

They have seen a lot of changes over the years.

“In the early days we saw some very sad cases,” Janet says. “People now are taken care of better.”

Red Cross’s Meals on Wheels service help people all around New Zealand by providing them with a healthy meal every day.

Volunteers deliver around 620,000 hot meals a year, or nearly 12,000 every week.

Janet remembers her first day – it was the 19th of September 1969. “I was escorted by one of the Miss Bruns, who were sisters,” she says.

“In the days when we started, we had big metal cans with a hot plate in it – customers had to have a plate ready.”

Bev says customers often forgot their warmed plate, and they had some fussy eaters too.

“We used to get people who would say, I don’t like peas, and we told them to eat around them,” she laughs. “We’ve had a fair experience.
It has been a very pleasurable thing – we’ve met an awful lot of people.”

Janet recalls delivering a meal to one Mrs Weaver following her hundredth birthday.

“She was so proud to show us her letter from the queen and the governor general,” she says.

And in all their time delivering meals, they’ve always done it together.

“She got me into all sorts of things – choir was one of them,” says Bev.

Janet says she has been a part of the Choral Society for 54 years.

“I introduced Janet to city shopping,” Bev says.

Holidays down the Sounds, choir and watching their children play sport – the pair have made a lifetime of memories following their chance meeting taking children home from school.

“I got her a fridge magnet that says, ‘you will always be my friend because you know too much.”

The pair have life memberships with Red Cross, recognising the many roles they have had with the organisation. Both are humble about their achievements and long-service, saying they did it for the pleasure of volunteering.

“We must be the longest serving Meals on Wheels drivers,” Bev says.

Their one bugbear – dogs that jump.

“Old ladies have thin skin,” says Janet. “We scratch easily.”

Previous ArticleNext Article

Send this to a friend