Maryborough Meals on Wheels volunteer Allan Quinn at work in the kitchen.
Maryborough Meals on Wheels volunteer Allan Quinn at work in the kitchen. Nat Bromhead

Wheels keep turning despite tax bill

VOLUNTEERS and staff at Meals on Wheels Fraser Coast had a strong inkling things weren't right, even before the news broke of its crippling $600,000 tax bill.

But when head chef Paul Burfield heard the news late last week, it was still devastating.

"We all knew there were troubles. But getting that terrible phone call at home is never nice."

Since then, staff have generously donated their time and efforts to keep the service going. And the volunteers are keener than ever to assure clients their meals will continue to be delivered.

But Mr Burfield acknowledged morale was still low.

He is used to coming in and seeing staff working in the bakery, sharing a joke and preparing food.

But instead the kitchen is empty and dark, the machines unplugged, and he works quietly, making a start to the day's meals.

"It's all dead and quiet."

Rising production costs and a massive bill for accrued GST payments forced the organisation into insolvency.

Hervey Bay Meals on Wheels has stepped in and with the assistance of staff and volunteers in Maryborough the group has ensured not a single person has missed their meal.

The main priority of both teams is to make sure the clients have their meals and the crews delivering meals have done so with a smile on their face, determined to give the same friendly service.

The staff in Maryborough and the Hervey Bay team met yesterday to work out logistics. Mr Burfield said the plans put in place would probably remain for about a month until staff had the chance to work out a permanent arrangement.

"Hervey Bay Meals on Wheels operates a little bit different.

"We're trying to streamline things and we'll continue to do that."

While the group received calls from clients concerned the service would no longer be provided, Mr Burfield said the group had been able to dispel any talk that meals would not be delivered.

Mr Burfield was full of praise for the volunteers.

Rhonda Lang, who has volunteered for 48 years, offered money to help keep the group afloat, but it was returned to her when the size of the debt became known.

She volunteers up to three days a week.

"Without them (the volunteers) we would cease to exist," Mr Burfield said.

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