Anglicare News - National award
The Biscuit Ladies
Volunteer partnerships with Anglicare services often happen behind the scenes. It’s inspiring to see what’s made possible because of the generosity of people in our community.
A long standing partnership in Tasmania exists between a group of women from the Anglican Parish of Howrah, (kindly referred to as the Biscuit Ladies) and Youthcare – Anglicare Tasmania’s youth shelter which offers crisis accommodation and support for young men aged 13 to 20 years.
This group of eight women, headed up by Margaret Kelly, has baked biscuits, cakes and slices on a roster basis every week for more than twelve years.
At the recent Anglicare Australia National Conference the Biscuit Ladies were recognised for their significant contribution. They won a national award (*Highly Commended) for their outstanding volunteer services.
Margaret visits Youthcare every Friday delivering the baked goods and talking with the young men who are there. This has become a very special partnership between the Parish and that service.
It began when Anglicare Tasmania CEO Chris Jones visited the Parish and was asked how the local people could help.
Chris suggested some home cooking, and the women took Youthcare under their wing so that, in the words of Margaret, ‘the boys would know that someone cared about them’.
‘Many of our clients have not had stable homes and therefore have not experienced home cooking. The cakes, slices and biscuits that are provided by the volunteers infuse a sense of home when they are homeless,’ said Emily Churches, Area Manager Supported Accommodation Service, Anglicare Tasmania.
‘There is also great benefit for the young men when Margaret drops off the cookies, to explore and engage in sincere, unconditional respect and gratitude for the time that strangers have spent cooking to make their lives more homely.
‘Margaret always engages with the staff in a conversation around what other support services or opportunities may be linked into. As an example we recently discussed the new Men’s Shed that was opening and how we could link any of the young men with this service to provide mentorship and positive role modelling.
‘The staff and clients all regularly speak of the social benefit that is derived through this volunteering opportunity,’ said Emily.
Along with cooking, the Biscuit Ladies have organised the Parish to provide a BBQ, games, beanies, DVDs, a sandwich press and milkshake makers. They also ensure that Easter and Christmas do not go unmarked, by creating gift boxes for each young man, always individually wrapped with a personal note.
‘This is a quiet ministry which continues without fuss every week and can easily go unnoticed apart from the biscuit boxes which change hands via the church kitchen each week,’ said Archdeacon Helen Phillips, Rector Parish of Howrah Sandford.
‘Margaret regularly gives an update on her weekly trip to Youthcare during the church notices or as a local mission focus, letting the congregation know about how many boys are currently in residence, how the staff are doing, and any special needs that are coming up for prayer or further support.
‘One year a handwritten letter appeared in the church letter box, which I have kept as a Parish Treasure. It was from a Mum who had grieved that her son was in Youthcare on Christmas Day. She had thought he was alone and wouldn’t have received a Christmas gift on Christmas morning.
‘Months later, in conversation with her son, he told her, “Mum, I did receive a Christmas Present … from the biscuit ladies.” His Mum made the effort to find us and write to the church to thank the team for caring for her son in this way.
‘I found it extremely moving, reading out the letter to the congregation to let them know the very real impact such a small gesture had in the life of a teenage boy and his Mum.
‘This great ministry is a group of good-hearted cooks who care about the simple needs of kids and do what they can to brighten their world a little when they reach for the biscuit tin,’ said Helen.
Margaret and her team provide a message of unconditional love in the form of food. They provide a regular and constant example of compassion in the lives of many young men who are experiencing family crisis. Evidence of the boys’ appreciation is that none of the food items are ever left over, which the Biscuit Ladies say ‘is all the reward they need’.
*Anglicare Australia’s National Awards program recognises outstanding services, projects and programs provided by agencies of the Anglicare Australia network, as well as individual volunteers who have made a significant contribution. A nomination for an award for Volunteer Achievement is to recognise exceptional service by an individual who has made a significant contribution or significantly changed and improved the quality of services to the client or the work environment of the agency.
If you would like to explore ideas of what you or your church could do in your local community please talk with Margaret Savage, Anglicare’s Parish Community Development Worker, on 6213 3656 or email.