Whittlesea Bowls Club had three functions cancelled last weekend due to lockdown, while staff pivoted to takeaway with seven hours notice.

By Aleksandra Bliszczyk

Whittlesea Bowls Club made and donated 250 meals to residents who had lost their incomes or been affected by greater Melbourne’s lockdown.

Unexpectedly, the meal drive on June 10 came a day after one of Victoria’s worst storms in decades, which left many City of Whittlesea residents with property damage and no electricity.

As the wind howled into Thursday morning, general manager Nick McIntyre added an extra 130 chicken parmas to the menu.

“We put a note out on the Thursday and said anyone who’s lost power is welcome to participate in the offer and we put on a few more meals,” he said.

“It was anyone who might’ve lost their jobs, single mums with kids, the elderly; it wasn’t pinpointed to anyone, it was just anyone who’d had a bit of a tough time and wanted a night off.”

Mr McIntyre said the drive was about giving back to a community that supported the club through the previous lockdown, and by partnering with Whittlesea Community House and Whittlesea Food Bank, it was able to reach people in need.

“With this lockdown come around we thought one week, which ended up being two weeks, probably wasn’t worthwhile doing the takeaway but we thought why not give back to the community that’s been so good to us?” he said.

“It’s great to be able to give back. Some people need it more than others and Whittlesea’s a very community-based township.

“Everybody gets behind each other whether it’s this cause or any other cause, so it’s important that, as a club we pride ourselves on looking after the community, and it was a no-brainer really.”

Mr McIntyre said the lockdown was tough on workers without JobKeeper payments to supplement their income, and the restrictions on hospitality continued to take a toll.

“The big lockdown last year was tough, doing takeaway enabled staff to earn a wage during that period, but this time it was a bit different because there was no JobKeeper. Casuals are pretty hardly done by,” he said.

“It could’ve easily been a situation where we said nah, we’ll stay shut down. It’s hard, we’re working on a break-even strategy at the moment.”

As restrictions ease further this week, Mr McIntyre is looking forward to welcoming the community back for its many regular groups and events, like the popular Morning Melodies singing group, a knitting group and bingo nights.

“The club sometimes is [people’s] life, they come down, meet up with their friends, play cards or bingo … [in lockdown] we get constant phone calls: ‘when are you opening; when can we come?’” he said.

“We’ll do the best we can with what we’ve got, and try and facilitate everyone’s needs and hopefully next month we’re back to some normality.”