Meals on Wheels helps thousands of people in South Australia, and Shirley Mudge is one of its longest standing volunteers, boasting 29 years of service. Shirley is as true blue as they come. She loves her two sons, her husband, her hometown, their local school and community sport. The school librarian and local footy trainer has called the humble town of Waikerie home for the past 27 years. “I don’t think I’ll ever move,” she says.
Shirley has been a Meals on Wheels volunteer for longer. “Twenty-nine years I’ve been with them and I’m not planning on leaving any time soon.” Now chair of Waikerie Meals on Wheels and a board member for the SA committee, Shirley started helping occasionally (her mum delivered and needed a hand) and never looked back.
Overseeing all the operations, volunteers and clients in the Waikerie area, Shirley runs the committee meetings and sits on monthly board meetings in Adelaide for Meals on Wheels SA. She’s also part of the Branch Operations Services Committee every two months regarding food safety and other operational matters. “I like to be busy.”
She’s done it all during nearly 30 years of service. “I’ve always just done everything.” She laughs. “I’ve been the welfare officer, I deliver, I cook – I do everything.” It’s no wonder after just two years as a deliverer in Waikerie she was elected Chair of their local branch – her love for her town and passion for helping others is admirable. Shirley is modest and her dedication to the cause unwavering. “I will keep doing it as long as I can,” she says. “We’re helping the old people who really need our services. We’re helping them stay in their homes and keep that independence going.”
She’s also very honest. “I wouldn’t like being in a nursing home and having people tell me what to do and when to eat.” A realist when it comes to the job, Shirley admits it can get hard, “But that’s life. It’s very sad sometimes. It’s really hard when you lose them, but you just have to think ‘it’s the cycle’.”
She loves it, too, and takes on some delivering and cooking duties when she can between her chair and board member roles. “I like the delivering because you actually get to see the people and you can have a little chat. They’re people I’ve known for a long time and you get to know them really well. They’re pleased to see you. Sometimes you’re the only person they see in their day.”
Shirley says it’s all about listening and having respect. “I think it’s made me more appreciative of elderly people and the things that you can learn from them. They share their old wives’ remedies. You remember those things because they work. I could never make scones, and one of the ladies gave me her scone recipe. Now I make really nice scones. People nowadays think the elderly are just old and useless but you can learn so much from them. I love talking to them. It’s very rewarding.”