By Justin Flynn
It is a mild and sunny late autumn day at Feed Me Bellarine’s busy hub in Ocean Grove.
Volunteers are scurrying around attending to tasks that will, ultimately, help feed people in need all over the Bellarine.
Founded by Lana Purcell and Anthony Woodward, Feed Me Bellarine’s motto is ‘no questions, no agendas’.
Those who ask for help are given it without a moment’s thought.
Feed Me Bellarine is now a registered charity and has expanded to the Surf Coast. It is something of a juggernaut that almost everyone on the peninsula has heard about. Lana says they always planned to expand “but just not this soon”.
There are 89 volunteers who donate their time at the Ocean Grove hub, nestled, perhaps appropriately, in the industrial estate off Grubb Road.
Some of their duties range from packing, cooking, customer service and delivery.
Two of the volunteers, Hilda Lee and Margaret Gravett, are described as ‘Thelma and Louise’ by those who work there.
They banter with each and are constantly and cheekily interacting with others. They are here five days a week from 9.30am to 3pm.
The hub’s two resident chickens are even named Hilda and Margaret.
Volunteers Hilda and Margaret are having a short lunch break. Nachos made by the fully qualified volunteer chef on duty.
Afterwards, they scurry to the kitchen where they continue to scoop food into plastic containers, ready to be delivered to those who need it.
Hilda turned 80 the previous day. A vibrant, healthy-looking woman originally from Liverpool in the UK, she has been in Ocean Grove for 55 years and considers herself “almost a local”.
“It’s another family,” she says of Feed Me Bellarine.
“They (Lana and Anthony) are miracle workers and so patient with us all.
“It gets a bit hectic but these two are wonderful, generous, very caring people.
“We get down the road (after finishing for the day) and think ‘gee that was another great day’.
“You feel so satisfied that you’ve helped people.
“You have a little idea of where it (the food) goes, but you don’t see the people and we don’t need to.”
Before COVID-19, Margaret and Hilda were busy with Probus, VIEW and water aerobics.
“It’s the most satisfying thing I have ever done,” Margaret says.
Co-founder Anthony Woodward walks through the room and Hilda says “that’s our boss”.
“I’m not a boss, I’m family,” he says quickly.
Corey Fowler is the chef on duty today.
Before COVID-19, he was the head chef at Campbell Point House.
To keep busy he volunteers at Feed Me Bellarine.
A tall man, he cuts an imposing figure as he strolls through the room from the kitchen on his way outside.
“You under control ‘H’?,” he asks Hilda.
“No. Why would I be under control? Don’t be silly,” she retorts.
“We’re never under control,” Margaret joins in.
“But we’re very happy here.”