Building on the power of food to bring people together, one of Australia’s largest food manufacturers has extended its links into its local community on the Central Coast of NSW.
Last Friday 13 July, 220 Associates volunteered a collective 1,500 hours to make a difference on farms, in schools and with community groups on the Central Coast. Support included building and maintaining veggie gardens, improving cooking and dining facilities, supporting sustainability initiatives, and preparing and sharing meals with people across 30 organisations on the Coast.
“At Mars Food we pride ourselves on bringing people together over food because in doing so we know we foster meaningful relationships that allow Australians to lead happier, healthier lives,” says Hamish Thomson, General Manager of Mars Food Australia (MFA).
“On top of this, there’s so much more we can do to build connections that improve the lives of those in need in our broader community.”
One organisation the Mars Food team is proud to support is Camp Breakaway, which provides a ‘holiday’ for adults and children with disabilities, high medical needs and rare disorders and their families, with trained carers and registered nurses offering support and care in an inclusive environment.
“We provide a break away from the normal routine, where people have fun, relax, be themselves – and celebrate that they are individual, unique people not defined by a disability,” says Denise Pastor, Fundraising Coordinator at Camp Breakaway.
Mark Croser, an Operation Technician at MFA, led the volunteer team at Camp Breakaway for the second year in a row. As a parent of a child with Down Syndrome who has visited Camp Breakaway, Mark knows first-hand that it can be hard for families and children to wind down and have a break in a supportive environment – and how valuable volunteers are to helping Camp Breakaway provide that opportunity.
“I love going to work every day, but there is something extra special about helping people and making people smile alongside your colleagues,” he says. “The Mars Volunteer Program is a big part of why I love working at Mars.”
In 2017 he started the volunteer work ahead of time at home - gathering supplies, building - to ensure the team could achieve more on the day of volunteering, and this year was no different. His team painted a cabin and repaired facilities, as well as prepared and shared a meal with Camp Breakaway’s hardworking staff and other volunteers.
“I’d encourage everyone to get involved in a volunteering experience, whether at work, school or in the community. Once you do one you will put your hand up for many more,” he says.
Like the Mars Food team, those who volunteer see the benefits, explains Denise Pastor. “Volunteers are the backbone of Camp Breakaway. With volunteer and community support, Breakaway is able to provide a break to hundreds of people with disability, their families and carers each year.”
From gardening, cooking, and painting, to repairing stations at Camp Breakaway’s bushland sensory trail, MFA Associates put their skills to use. “Many Associates from Mars Food spend time on the factory floor – they’re problem solvers, and we’ve been so impressed by how they’ve helped improve our facilities. They’ve really made a significant difference.”
“Last Friday the MFA Associates achieved so much in just one morning. They painted Breakaway’s activity lodge, replaced old washing lines and spruced up the gardens. MFA Associates, Breakaway staff and other volunteers shared a wonderful lunch provided by Mars. And there was even one final surprise, a donation of indoor and outdoor sporting equipment. Thank you Mars for a tremendous day.”
Brad Wilson is the Regional Development Officer at the Central Coast Community Council, which helps link services to vulnerable communities on the Coast, and has helped connect MFA Associates with organisations that could do with a hand as part of the Volunteer Day. Brad says getting out in the community helps shift perceptions on disadvantage.
“Many people don’t see the true level of disadvantage in the community. So meeting and working with people who aren’t doing so well gives an understanding of what life is like for others – helping to break the popular myths.
“It’s great to see so many people from Mars Food Australia getting out and building those connections across the Coast, because that’s how we start to shift perceptions and strengthen the fabric of our broader community.”
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ABOUT MARS FOOD AUSTRALIA AND THE MARS VOLUNTEER PROGRAM
Mars Food Australia (MFA) has been creating healthy, easy, accessible, tasty meal solutions for Australians since 1967 from Wyong – including popular ranges such as MASTERFOODS®, DOLMIO®, KAN TONG®, and UNCLE BEN’S® – and is dedicated to making better food today for a better world tomorrow.
Last year alone, more than 23,000 Mars Associates from 232 sites worldwide volunteered more than 100,000 hours. Out of all of the global Mars operations, MFA hosted one of the largest one-day MVP events in history, with Associates donating 1,000 hours of their time to service those disadvantaged in their local community.