A wand has been waved, showering fairy dust over the old Richmond RSL Sub-branch hall kitchen – a mish mash of cast-off cupboards, donated tables and narrow benches - transforming it into a gleaming cream and stainless steel showpiece.
The launch of the new kitchen was a matter for huge celebration on Wednesday, March 15 by the Walers RSL Day Club, who use the hall weekly and applied for the grant for it from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Macquarie MP Susan Templeman was there as well as two representatives from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Robyn Preston from Hawkesbury MP Dominic Perrottet’s office, as volunteers in the new kitchen churned out food for the 70 people who came.
Volunteers Jann Dewsnap, Tracey Kelleher and Steve Constantine showed the Gazette the new facilities. Not only was the room now lined with cream cupboards, and shiny cream-patterned laminex benches, but there is now a ceiling, complete with downlights, a rangehood over the stove, a central ceiling fan, air conditioner, blinds on the windows, glass splashbacks, new lino, microwave, multi-level serving trolley and new saucepans, plates, bowls and cutlery.
The grant of almost $39,000 allowed the complete makeover of the kitchen, which churns out hot meals every Wednesday for the 52 members of the Day Club.
Ms Dewsnap commented at the launch that without the grant from Veterans Affairs, it would have meant “an awful lot of Bunnings barbecues” to raise the money for the kitchen.
Ms Templeman in her speech said she felt guilty for helping launch the kitchen “as I’m not the one who does the cooking in our house”. She said the Walers was “one of those key under-appreciated groups in our community” explaining it was now well known that “social connectivity was the lifeblood of a healthy community”.
“It’s a miserable wet day yet the place is packed,” she said. “That just shows how important it is.”
President of Richmond RSL Sub-branch Ron Gray got up and said he loves coming in on a Wednesday when the Walers are there. “There’s always someone doing something for someone here,” he said. “It’s a joy to be here.”
Member John Briggs, 95, a WWII RAAF veteran who was there when the Japanese surrendered at the Battle of Morotai in Indonesia, pulled down the red ribbon in the kitchen doorway to officially open it.
Maryanne Steinman, the community support adviser for the Department of Veterans Affairs explained why the Walers club was so popular. “It’s one of the most modern progressive day clubs in the state,” she said. “They’re all computer literate, go on outings once a month, do quizzes, seated exercises, games and bingo. For a lot of the members this is their only social contact and for some their only hot meal for the week.”
She said another critical factor was access to the Sub-branch’s bus which enables Mr Constantine to go around and pick up the 15-18 members who couldn’t get there on their own.
Ms Dewsnap said most club members were in their 80s and 90s and most of them were women. The club is open to all senior members in the community. If you are interested in joining, volunteering or finding out more contact Ms Dewsnap on 0402 177 327.