Dookie local helps most vulnerable during pandemic

By Morgan Dyer

Dookie mother-of-two Leiticia Harmer has volunteered her time at Dookie Primary School, Dookie Town Hall Committee and the Dookie Cubs group for nearly two decades.

However, her recent volunteer work — organising essential supplies to be delivered to some of Dookie’s most vulnerable — was even more important.

For the past two months, along with keeping her own family safe and her family farm afloat, Ms Harmer organised fruit, vegetables, meat and bread to be delivered to the Dookie community.

“Like everyone, I wanted to keep my family as safe as possible during COVID-19 and I didn’t enjoy coming into Shepparton because the supermarkets were just so busy,” Ms Harmer said.

“I saw a number of businesses were delivering food to other areas, but Dookie wasn’t one of them.

“I thought there must be a way to get businesses out here.”

So, after a call to Shepparton’s Finer Fruits, Ms Harmer was soon notifying Dookie residents to place their orders, as fresh fruit and vegetables were coming to town.

Ms Harmer said it was vital for Dookie’s older residents to not have to travel into busy supermarkets during the pandemic.

“I guess the driving force of the idea came about knowing a large number of our community members were elderly,” she said.

“People put their orders in, and once a week Finer Fruits came to the one drop-off point, which was the Dookie Showgrounds, and from there myself and a number of volunteers began sorting the deliveries.

“The community would then come up in intervals and we would put the packages into each customer's car boot.”

Word soon got out about the safe deliveries and Ms Harmer went from helping 20 people with their groceries to more than 70 community members.

“The idea just grew and soon we were able to get weekly meat deliveries from GV Meats and delicious cakes and bread from Higgins Bakery delivered as well,” Ms Harmer said.

The initiative not only helped keep members of the Dookie community safe but also gave local businesses a hand up during the pandemic.

“This week was the last week for the deliveries, but I know a number of Dookie people said they were going to continue to get their groceries from the same stores,” Ms Harmer said.

“I had the help of some very loyal local volunteers.

“Everyone in the community was very grateful and I was inundated with messages of thanks.”

Ms Harmer said organising the deliveries was rewarding and gave her a sense of community in an uncertain time.

“If everyone volunteers a little bit of their time here and there, it makes a big difference,” she said.

“You make such great friends through volunteering; it makes you feel like you have a purpose and gives you a nice warm feeling you are helping people.

“A lot of people give their little bit in Dookie and I think that’s what makes us such a great, well-rounded community.”