South Australian volunteer and West Australian regional service acknowledged in organisation’s first national awards program 

Meals on Wheels Australia, the peak body for community meals providers in Australia, is supported by over 590 services and 45,000 volunteers across the country – and today, one regional service and one hardworking volunteer are being acknowledged as the winners of the organisation’s inaugural Alison Meighan Awards Program.

The Shire of Coolgardie’s independently-run Meals on Wheels service operating in regional WA has been crowned the Service Excellence Award winner, while Colin Trenouth, Volunteer Coordinator at South Australia’s Edwardstown branch has taken home the Outstanding Contribution Award.

Photo: Supplied by Shire of Coolgardie

The inaugural awards were introduced in May 2022 to honour the late Alison Meighan, a dedicated and passionate Meals on Wheels volunteer and advocate, with the goal of recognising the achievements of individuals and Meals on Wheels services, and in turn, reinforcing the essential role Meals on Wheels services play within almost every Australian community. 

The awards were made possible through the generous sponsorship of well-known hygiene brand, Glen 20, who have financially supported the award for two years, enabling $5,000 to be awarded to each winning recipient. 

These funds can be used towards a cause aligned with Meals on Wheels, including professional development of volunteers or staff, the purchasing of equipment or kitchen refurbishments, fee waivers for customers facing financial disadvantage, team celebrations or attendance at a volunteering or Meals on Wheels conference. 

Responding to an urgent need within their community as COVID-19 cases soared, the Shire of Coolgardie worked alongside the late Alison Meighan to research and establish a unique program to support elderly and vulnerable locals to receive nourishing meals and a valuable welfare check while the Australian Government was advising people stay at home. 

The service now delivers meals twice a week to 55 customers with the support of 15 paid staff and 10 volunteers, through a collaboration with Midwest Employment and Economic Development Aboriginal Corporation (MEEDAC) and St John.

To ensure the sustainability of the program, the Shire also collaborated with two mining companies to help fund the program and volunteers work together with Shire staff to ensure meals are delivered in a timely manner and align with food safety regulations – resulting in the delivery of approximately 13,000 meals in over two years.

“During COVID we identified a real need for our senior citizens to have access to healthy meals during the pandemic and we worked hard to get the Meals on Wheels program established, including the recovery period and beyond,” Malcolm Cullen, President of the Shire of Coolgardie says.

Through the weekly deliveries, the Shire also identified the negative impact isolation had on their older customers and as a result, established the Seniors Staying Connected Program. In this program, Shire staff collect up to 20 senior Western Australians every fortnight who are then taken on an outing, free of charge, to game days, lunch dates, lawn bowls and visits to the museum, all helping promote social interaction. 

President of Meals on Wheels Australia, Sharyn Broer has extended hearty congratulations to the Shire of Coolgardie. “The development of this start-up Meals on Wheels program, which operates without Commonwealth Government funding, epitomises the values and spirit of Meals on Wheels.  The community collaboration and can-do attitude required to establish and sustain this service that benefits older customers, staff and volunteers alike is extraordinary and commendable, befitting the inaugural winners of this coveted Award.”

Mr Cullen says winning the award is an acknowledgement of real collaboration delivering positive community outcomes.

“To win the Service Excellence Award in the inaugural Alison Meighan Awards is an honour and a reflection of the passion, drive and commitment of all stakeholders involved in the program. We have high-level corporate partners through to individual members of the community that assist Shire staff; it truly is a team effort.”

The Shire of Coolgardie staff and Council are brainstorming how to use their prize money to ensure the full benefits of the funds. 

“The prize money will be put to good community use,” Mr Cullen says. 

For Outstanding Contribution Award winner, Colin Trenouth the announcement that he had been crowned the winner came as a surprise.

“This award represents to me that as a volunteer we are recognised and appreciated for the work we do which is important,” he says.

“I find the most rewarding part is interacting with the customers and understanding the importance of what we do.”

Colin began volunteering with Meals on Wheels as a driver/deliverer 11 years ago and since 2012 you will find him in the kitchen sometimes 6-7 days a week going above and beyond in his Volunteer Coordinator role. 

Photo: Considered Image 2022

A customer favourite, Colin epitomises Meals on Wheels and is always ready to help out, meaning he wears a lot of hats – from ordering frozen meals for customers, packing and delivering meals, coordinating volunteers and often assisting in media and PR opportunities.

A kind, caring and passionate advocate for Meals on Wheels, he is also on the Edwardstown Branch Committee and acts as Minute Secretary for meetings.

Colin would like to use his individual prize to attend the next Meals on Wheels Australia Conference in 2024 and the remaining half of the prize money will support his local service.

“I decided to use my prize to attend the National Conference as this gives me a chance to appreciate the high-level decision-making undertaken by the organisation,” Colin explains.

He was recently presented his award by national President, Sharyn Broer at Meals on Wheels SA’s annual Awardee Luncheon. 

Mrs Broer says “Colin was the unanimous choice of the judging panel.  His valuable contribution to his local community as a Meals on Wheels volunteer exemplifies the spirit of the late Alison Meighan, and it is obvious that brightening the days of others makes him feel great, too.”

In a wonderful show of support, Glen 20 decided to extend its generous sponsorship of the Alison Meighan Awards, enabling Meals on Wheels Australia to also acknowledge the five shortlisted nominations for this year’s awards program. Congratulations to the honourable finalists below.

  • Marika Pogany (COA Sydney – NSW)
  • Edwin Garth (COA Sydney – NSW)
  • COA Sydney (NSW)
  • Mid Richmond Neighbourhood Centre (NSW)
  • Warrumbungle Community Care (NSW)

“Glen 20 is a proud partner of Meals on Wheels with the shared purpose of being able to support safer and healthier communities,” Pim Bolyn, Category Marketing Manager at Reckitt says.

“The opportunity to support the annual Alison Meighan Awards is a wonderful chance to recognise the incredible work of the many amazing services and volunteers at Meals on Wheels who make a real impact in our community on a daily basis.”

“Congratulations to the winners and nominees of the inaugural awards and their outstanding contribution to Meals on Wheels, their clients, and the wider community.”

Nominations Alison Meighan Awards will re-open in June 2023.

Meals on Wheels Australia sincerely thanks Glen 20 for its valued sponsorship and support of the Alison Meighan Awards.