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Dandenong Ranges Feeding Group
Volunteering in an auxiliary has always been an honourable occupation but, for many years and across many brigades, that wasn’t recognised.
Longstanding members of the Dandenong Ranges Feeding Group, made up of members of 15 different brigades, agree they sometimes felt like second-class citizens, but that feeling is long gone.
“We are all full brigade members now,” said Monbulk auxiliary’s Sally Rutzou. “The Dandenong Ranges brigades are very forward thinking. The brigade captains are firm supporters of our work. CFA generally realises the value of auxiliaries so they’re back to the stage of feeling useful and being appreciated.
“We started up after Ash Wednesday when there was so much wasted food because auxiliaries doubled up. We saw the need to get auxiliaries together.”
At that time Monbulk brigade had their own auxiliary caravan which lasted from 1967-2011. Catering down out of that caravan raised money for the current Monbulk trailer. It was designed by locals for local needs and includes a generator for lighting, a fridge/freezer and gas hot water, dishwashing on one side and a barbecue on the other. The feeding group has also raised money for a new refreshments trailer to be stationed at Ferntree Gully ICC.
The group is now a dynamic mix of men and women ranging in age from 19 up to Leny Broekhof who, at 90 years of age, recently received her 25 year service badge. All members have food handling and maintain safety on the fireground qualifications. They are also registered with the Red Cross so remain at an incident if catering is passed to that organisation.
“I don’t do night and I don’t do hills,” said Monbulk member John Nieman who drives the car pulling the kitchen trailer when he’s not operational. He’s one of a number of members who moves across to the feeding group when he wants time off the fire truck. Another member who crosses over between operational and feeding group activity is Sarah Krumins who has run the group since 2008.
The group is activated between 50 and 70 times in a regular year but, by early March 2013, had already turned out 27 times. They fed for about eight weeks through the 2009 bushfires and have also deployed to events in the Maroondah, Yarra Valley, Knox and Cardinia Group areas.
Charging very reasonable prices, recent hard-earned funds have gone towards a new refreshments trailer. While they quote CFA per head, an event like a Juniors’ sports day would come at cost price.
Word of their excellent hamburgers (no beetroot) has spread far beyond the ranges: there are apparently hamburger photos on the noticeboard in a Queensland Fire Service incident control centre! The secret? Using meat from the local butcher and lovely fresh ingredients.
“You see people off the fireground utterly exhausted and hungry as hunters,” said feeding group Secretary Sue McLaughlin. “You have to be good with people and have the ability to coax them along.”
There are currently about 60 members on the books but the feeding group would welcome more members. They’re only getting busier.