Despite the 3.30am starts, Boggabri Lions Club has found a way to rejuvenate the service club’s membership.
Over the past 15 years, more than a million meals have been served by club members at barbecues around Boggabri communities.
President Craig Devine said four or five years ago, the club was going to fold, but then there was a big influx of members after word got around the Boggabri community of the need for help.
“I’ve been president for four years and we’ve become successful because we’ve found our niche.
“Other service clubs ask how we attract young people and I say you’re got to change with the times and give the community what it wants.”
Craig said support from Whitehaven’s Maules Creek mine and from Boggabri Coal had been a key to the success of the service with mine employees eager to enjoy their fresh-cooked meals.
Over the past few years, the Lions Club teams have had to cope with Covid and flooding.
Craig said their service changed when Covid hit with meals prepared off-site and delivered so that health and safety codes could be met.
The teams didn’t stop during last year’s floods either, with helicopters used to ferry the meals into the mines.
“The mines email us of what they want – lunch or breakfast, steak, sausages bacon and egg rolls and specify what they want for their meals, Craig said.
“It’s a morale booster for the pit crew and last year we did their Christmas lunch, catering for 1000 meals in four days.
“The best thing they loved was then we surprised the crews by throwing open a chest freeze which was chock-full of ice-creams!”
The initiative has a huge flow-on affect around the Boggabri community with six local businesses supplying the food and extras for the barbecues.
Also, the Lions Club has teams of community volunteers who work the food van and, instead of them taking payment, the proceeds are given to their nominated charities.
Craig said local organisations which had benefited included The Tractor Shed, Men’s Shed, Rural Fire Service, Pony Club, the Showground Trust, Sacred Heart School Parents and Friends, Boggabri Public School Parents and Citizens, Boggabri Hospital Auxiliary, Boggabri Chamber of Commerce, Ooranga Pre-school and Boggabri Golf Club.
“It takes a great deal of dedication to rally the troops for up to 10 events a month, because, for some breakfasts, it’s a 3.30am start to begin handing out the meals to the crews at 5am.
“Sometimes they’re not told we’re coming, but the smell of sausages and onions cooking soon has them lining up!”