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Mayoral visit highlights heroism and needs of soup kitchens

George Executive Mayor Alderman Leon van Wyk and Deputy Executive Mayor Charlotte Clarke last week visited municipality-supported nutritional centres to honour the selfless work and dedication of the volunteers that feed their communities from their homes.

There are currently 125 nutritional centres in the George municipal area run by volunteers, mostly women, who cook two to five meals a week for vulnerable people including children, the elderly and disabled. While traditionally called ‘soup kitchens’, the centres provide a variety of meals according to the ingredients provided by the municipality and donated by NGOs or private individuals.

The mayoral team’s first stop was at the Conville home of Tannie Joan Jonker who cooks and serves meals to 85 people three times a week. At the height of Covid-19 lockdown, set-ups like Tannie Joan’s supplied two meals a day for up to five days a week. “I am now teaching others my cooking skills so that they can continue helping our people long after I am gone.”

Tannie Joan said the ongoing support from the municipality was wonderful but there were needs beyond food ingredients. “Large pots, utensils, more stoves and prepaid electricity are practical ways in which people can assist.”

They also visited the Parkdene Soup Kitchen, run by superwomen Leoni Witbooi and Amelda Jonker, who feed 250 people five days a week, come rain or shine. The feisty pair starts cooking at 5am every weekday, cooking with up to six 20-litre pots on wood and electrical stoves.

This centre is one of 20 that receive additional support from the national Department of Social Development as well as donations from a local bakery, restaurant and butchery. It is also well-supported by ward councillor Bazil Petrus who has recognised the value of this service and used some of the annual ward allocation funds to buy more pots.

The third stop was in Lawaaikamp at the soup kitchen run by Emma Mehlo and her daughter Sylvia Mateza which serves more than 120 people, mostly children, on weekdays. Sylvia is a trained counsellor and sees to the emotional and mental needs of people in addition to food on the table. The pair would like to expand their service by collecting and handing out clothes and shoes, and appeals to the wider community for especially children’s clothes.

Ald Van Wyk commended the selfless work of all the people across the municipal area who hosted, cooked and served soup kitchens so faithfully in the face of many challenges, including the impacts of Covid-19 and limited resources. “The municipality’s Community Development section continues to work with whomever is available to help and donate, and will facilitate and liaise accordingly to ensure that specific needs of these facilities are being met.

People wanting to support the nutritional centres can contact 044 802 2000.

Alderman Leon van Wyk and Emma Mehlo keep an eye on the queue outside her soup kitchen in Lawaaikamp.