Red Cross Meals on Wheels volunteer Frances Ashton gets ready to do her weekly deliveries. Photo: Brittany Spencer.

20 years of Meals on Wheels

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For the past two decades, local woman Frances Ashton has been driving around the same area of Richmond, handing out meals to ill and elderly locals.

The Red Cross Meals on Wheels volunteer has just received her 20 year badge and certificate, and says she loves doing it just as much now as she did when she first began.

“I started as a relief driver because I was sick and thought, ‘oh, you stupid woman, you need to get out and do something’ and I’ve done it ever since.”

Frances is one of the 190 volunteers delivering meals every week day to locals in Nelson, Stoke, Richmond and Motueka.

“Thursday is my day, I make my appointments, I do my shopping, but other than that I make sure I stay on the island so I can deliver my meals.”

“I just love being able to cheer people up and help them out, often they’ll have questions and I’m meant to be a fountain of all knowledge when I’m not, but it’s just lovely to meet them and do something for them.”

“I’ve called the ambulance, I’ve packed bags, I’ve delivered mail, I’ve done it all.”

Frances recalls turning up to one of her client’s homes to find the lady on oxygen but having trouble breathing.

Meals on Wheels volunteers from left; Alistair Bowie, Jan Bowie, Pat Borlase, Vivienne Moody, Frances Ashton, Eveline Johnson, Jane Price and Red Cross’s Jackie Tye.
Meals on Wheels volunteers from left; Alistair Bowie, Jan Bowie, Pat Borlase, Vivienne Moody, Frances Ashton, Eveline Johnson, Jane Price and Red Cross’s Jackie Tye.

“I got there and she’d been waiting for me to come so I could help her with the emergency alarm, I pressed the alarm, packed her bag for the hospital, waited with her until the ambulance came and then a few weeks later I was back delivering meals to her.”

Frances has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, but even having to deal with the pain as she gets in and out of the car hasn’t stopped her.

“It’s always lovely catching up with my clients, I even have one woman who gets mobility meals every other day but she gets a meal from us on a Thursday so that I’ll deliver them, she just wants me to visit her, that makes my day.”

Red Cross Service Centre Coordinator Jackie Tye says Frances Ashton joins a special group of volunteers who have achieved a 20 year award.

“Our volunteers make a wonderful contribution in all the Red Cross programmes and we formally recognise their contribution at regular milestones.”

If anyone is interested in volunteering for the Red Cross, call Jackie Tye on 546 5012.