Baskets crew feeling the love

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By TRACEY ROXBURGH

An Arrowtown charity’s run off its feet right now – but the Wakatipu community’s swung in behind to support it.

This month a 20-foot storage container, courtesy of AJ Saville Builders, was dropped off on the St John’s Presbyterian Church grounds, in Arrowtown, by R & R Hiab, while two AJ Saville staff, Craig Tuck and Daniel McGarty, hung around to build some access stairs and lay some gravel to make life a bit easier for the Baskets of Blessing volunteers, who are increasing in volume weekly.

Allister Saville says Baskets of Blessing volly Lee Nicholson, along with a former client of his, asked if he had a spare container he could lend them.

Prior to Covid-19, the Baskets angels met twice a month and would hand out between 12 and 18 gift baskets, packed full of goodies.

The baskets have been ditched, for now, in favour of chiller food packs – each one containing at least two soups, four main meals, two desserts and two cakes.

They’re making, on average, 1000 meals a week – this week alone, 80 food packs were delivered.

Saville: “Those people are the heroes – they’re doing an awesome job … we just took the easy way out [instead of cooking] – a long-term loan of a container and doing a bit of other work to make it a bit easier for them.”

Nicholson says Saville’s one of “dozens” of examples of local legends who’ve gone above and beyond to lend a hand.

They now have two containers onsite – the other from R & R Hiab, which also provided an onsite walk-in chiller.

Baskets bought its own walk-in chiller, through proceeds raised by the Real Journeys Cruise-for-a-cause last year, and thanks to private donations coming through a community fund “we’ve been able to go and buy another … which is due this week”.

ARE Refrigeration loaned a trailer freezer for about five weeks in lockdown, while Queenstown Ice’s ‘Ice Man’ has let them use a 20-foot container-sized walk-in freezer since lockdown, and delivered another one to the church grounds.

Additionally, they’re still using two walk-in freezers at Millbrook Resort, and meals are stashed in about 20 private chest freezers across the Basin.

Nicholson: “The community and the local businesses stepping up has been truly extraordinary.

About 40 volunteers are now turning up twice a week – she estimates 80 per cent of them have lost their jobs due to Covid.

“They’re not working so they’re volunteering to come and help, they’d rather be doing something for their mental health and, not only that, it’s a reminder that there’s a lot of people dealing with this and not just themselves, and that’s reassuring – you’re not sitting at home with anxiety.

“It’s truly inspiring and it’s so heartwarming to see what happens.”

Further, the connectivity between all the community groups, social agencies, schools and preschools across the community has never been better.

“There are some real silver linings out of this challenging time.

“Our ethos is if a lot of people do a little bit, we can all make a huge difference.”

Demand for help, Nicholson says, continues to increase every week.

Since the beginning of lockdown, 11,000 meals have been prepared, many by chefs from the likes of St Moritz, Postmasters, Provisions, Canyon Brewery, and Millbrook, and ultimately delivered to unsuspecting people in need of a bit of TLC.

And, fortunately, food donations are also on the rise.

“The support from local farmers, who all want to remain anonymous because that’s just who they are … has just been tremendous,” she says.

“Lucy [Deuble], from KiwiHarvest and Sustainable Queenstown, she runs around and collects from all the supermarkets and from private donors as well.

“She divvies it up between us, Happiness House and Salvation Army, but all of us are getting direct donation offers as well, and we share it between us.

“The team is amazing.

“Honestly, it’s just a lot of all collectively getting together and going, ‘what have we got on hand, how can we make it get to the right people as fast as possible?”‘

The Baskets team’s also incredibly grateful to have the use of the church facilities on Mondays and Thursdays.

“We don’t have any religious affiliation at all, but they’re just, very kindly, making sure that their facility is being used by the community, so it actually embraces what they want to do as well.

“Everything is win-win.”

tracey.roxburgh@scene.co.nz