Interviewee: Betty Pedersen, born 1916
Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
for Baulkham Hills Shire Council
Date of Interview: 8 Aug 2001
Transcription: Catherine Sapir, May, 2006
This interview represents the personal recollections, views and opinions of the interviewee
Often affectionately referred to as Mrs Meals on Wheels, Betty Pedersen is the longest serving volunteer in the Shire for that organisation. Now 85, she has had more that sixty years of involvement with community work.
I’ve been doing volunteer work even before I was married. I had a friend who taught at Erskineville Primary School and she ran a Girls Club and I used to go out once a week and help her there and at Forbes I was in the Mother’s Club at the school and the Ladies Auxiliary and I was in the Country Women’s Association and I was in the Girl Guides local association and I was very involved in the Church so I did a lot of work out there.
I believe even before that time you had some volunteering work during the War years, wasn’t it?
Oh yes, I went down to….the Americans opened a centre down in Elizabeth Street in the city and I used to go there every Sunday for a couple of hours over the lunch period and help with the meals there. I did help with the nets that they did for camouflage netting. I did some of that. It was to throw over the vehicles.
Was it a sort of a tradition to volunteer in those days?
I think it might have been because a lot of work was done by volunteers. I mean, the whole of these organisations were volunteers, there’s no paid people.
So when did your involvement with Meals on Wheels begin?
Well when they started to organise the Meals on Wheels - I think the Meals on Wheels might have been the first service brought into the Shire - they called for volunteers. So I volunteered. I rang up and said I would be willing to help with Meals on Wheels. I happened to be on the first day that they were going out – I was rostered on the first day and from then on I’m still there.
So you may have actually done the first delivery?
Oh yes. We only had five meals to deliver, no more, but now it’s a different matter.
You made history there, Betty. Who cooked the meals?
We went from the Harvey Lowe pavilion and they were first cooked by the volunteers, the ladies on the committee I think they were.
Would you travel very far to deliver those meals?
Yes, when you do Kellyville we do about 50 kilometres from the Baulkham Hills Community Centre there and back. Well at the moment we’re going to a house around the back of Amaroo Raceway. We’ve even been out further than that. It was all volunteer at that stage. When I was on the committee and I was President, Secretary and Treasurer and all the rest of it, quite often I’d be down there two or three days a week and quite often I’d be called if somebody hadn’t notified them they weren’t coming to deliver, I’d get a phone call to come - would I mind coming and taking a meal.
Where did the actual funding come from?
I think in the beginning it came from the people who were buying the meals and then eventually the Government helped out a bit and the Council helped out a bit. They started to give petrol coupons, the Council. We nearly went broke. We thought we’d have to close down but the Government came with this HAT Program and they supply the money now. They have been very helpful. We haven’t had any problems with them when we have wanted any help.
How long have you done the Meals on Wheels?
That’s quite a commitment for anyone.
What benefits do you think have been made to the community by having the Meals on Wheels service?
Well it allows them to stay in their home for one thing because they get home help and the other services too and they get a good decent meal a day which they probably wouldn’t do for themselves.
Where you’ve got somebody who hasn’t got any family around or the family is living away somewhere else, they have the peace of mind knowing mum or dad’s being looked after, because a lot of them will not move out of their homes so it keeps them there in their home and makes them happy.
How many volunteers are still involved with Meals on Wheels?
Say about 15 a day.
Did you make any friends as a result of your volunteering work?
Oh yes, quite a lot. That’s where most of my friends have come from. We’ve made quite a few friends.
You started something, I believe, called the Saturday Club.
They started that…..a bus goes around and picks about 15 or 16 people up and brings them to the centre down there. They serve them morning tea and they give them a midday meal and afternoon tea and then take them home again. They have easy exercise for them and little games and then in the afternoon they play bingo. Well I went over for a few years, in time to give them help with the morning tea. There were two of us on duty then. We’d heat up the meal and serve the meal and then we’d get their afternoon tea and that was it. We’d come home.
Packing food for Meals on Wheel delivery
at Baulkham Hills Community Centre 2004
Looking back Betty at 30 years of volunteering on Meals on Wheels, plus all the other volunteering work you did before, what is the main thing you think you’ve learnt from that experience?
Well one thing you find you’ve got time to do all these things when you get stuck into it and do it. I suppose there’s self-satisfaction out of it too.
And your involvement with Meals on Wheels is still involved with the Kellyville run?
I do the Kellyville run, yes, once a month. I’m seriously thinking of giving it up.
Somehow I don’t think you will Betty.
Don’t you think so?