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May 28, 2023

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Heather Stevenson and Amanda Bannatyne are helping to orgainse delivery of meals to the Emergency Departments, ICU’s and COVID wards of local hospitals. Pictured with them is Steven Quirke, Manager of the Mullum Southern Cross Credit Union, who are also contributing to the cause. Photo Jeff Dawson

It started, in classic Byron style, with a batch of bliss balls.

The homemade treats were whipped up for the nurses at Byron Hospital by local, Sarah Armstrong, after she heard how challenging life had been for them during the Omicron outbreak.

Less than two weeks later, that small gesture of support has grown into a major fundraising effort that aims to deliver hundreds of nutritious meals and snacks to staff at Byron and Lismore Hospitals.

‘People are doing six double shifts in a row, two weeks of night shift, with barely time to grab something to eat,’ Ms Armstrong says from her home in Mullumbimby.

‘I thought, “Well I can’t really have a major impact on the number of cases, and I can’t suddenly become a nurse, but I can funnel some of the care from the community into the hospital”.’

‘So I just put it up on the Mullumbimby Flattening The Curve Facebook page to see if anyone else wanted to do some care packages, and it took off from there.’

At the time of writing, locals had pledged around $20,000 to the cause via the group’s GoFundMe page: Front Up for the Front Line.

Southern Cross Credit Union has also agreed to make a donation, and Dino’s IGA in Mullumbimby is providing food to go into staff tearooms.

Aiming to raise $50k

The group is aiming to raise $50,000 and is asking for the community to band together to get them over the line.

‘The thing that I’m hearing from the nurses since I set this up, is that it’s more than just the meals and snacks, it’s the feeling that they’re being supported by the community,’ Ms Armstrong says.

‘They’ve copped a lot since the pandemic began. They’re not complaining – they know they signed up to help people. But they’re physically exhausted and emotionally exhausted, and many of them are close to breaking point.’

Ms Armstrong and her fellow organisers – Penny Wheeler, Amanda Bannatyne, Jeremy Jacks and Heather Stevenson – are now finalising the logistics of sourcing and delivering hundreds of meals to the Emergency Departments, ICUs and COVID wards of the two hospitals.

In order to meet strict hospital food safety standards, the meals must be prepared in a commercial kitchen and delivered in frozen form.

Freezers needed

‘At the moment, we need three stand-alone freezers to store the meals, so if anyone is able to donate one to us, or loan one for an extended period, we’d be very grateful,’ Ms Armstrong says.

Ms Armstrong says organisers wish they were able to provide meals to Tweed Hospital, as they do for Byron and Lismore, but needed to keep the scope of the project manageable. The fundraiser is part of a broader trend of locals supporting frontline workers across the Shire.

A few days ago, the Federal Community Children’s Centre delivered a care package to Mullumbimby paramedics, drawing the following response from one of the paramedics:

‘We are so grateful for every little gesture, and the hand cream is divine!’ she said.

‘There’s no denying we are all exhausted, but we continue to show up, to serve our community. 

‘We will get through this together – and chocolate and thanks make it all that much easier.

‘From a very tired but determined paramedic.’

To offer in-kind support to Front Up For The Frontline, email Sarah Armstrong: [email protected], or visit the group’s Facebook page: Front Up For Our Frontline – Northern Rivers.

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