My previous opinion for the Salvation Army  and its activities wasn’t really well informed and was based on my assumption that this organisation  was very similar to many of the other religious organisations that abound in our Country, all of whom do wonderful work for the under privileged. I was  correct in that they do perform some of the same functions but little did I realise to what extent and to what depth this wonderful organisation operates, not to mention the immense scale.

To say that I was blown away would be an understatement and this not only extends to the operation that we all saw at the Manukau Facility in respect to product volume,  packing and distribution  system but also  the background infrastructure and systems in place that provide a delicate support system for their complexity of needs.

The operation has councillors, legal help and life skill specialists and more who can all link in to a holistic approach to determine the needs of the individual or family, from that first conversation they set up a file in the data base that results in the final volume of bread, meat etc that gets distributed at the collection stage alongside the Food Box.

Day One of our visit on Thursday 4th our team of ten hardy Papakura Rotarians met up at 10.00am with our District Youth Chair Peter Ross and after the usual signing in protocols we ventured into the Warehouse and packing area to a set up production line not unlike our ERK's packing line and after some initial minor hiccups the team packed some 177 boxes of mixed groceries some of which were produced in a seperate packing area and were made up of damaged product. Our team worked until 2:30 pm with a short break for lunch but we all were extremely satisfied with the packing effort and the big learning was the need to have a couple more helpers behind the packing line replenishing the shelves due to the gradual increase in speed of the packing.

Day Two on Tuesday 9th saw a team sixteen very keen Rotarians including Peter and Sally Ross from the Newmarket Club and this time both of our wonderful exchange students Tijn and Matthias all determined to beat the record but sadly we could only pack 146 Boxes but again we learned a few tricks and our team in the secondary packing section really repacked an enormous quantity of broken product and based up flour etc, all adding to a gigantic effort.

Day Three Wednesday 10th was a distribution day where the both Tijn and Matthias not only excelled in the completion of the final individual loading of the dispatch trolleys but also were privy to the workings of the computer directed system, met the people receiving the goods and gained an in depth understanding of real value of this project ,a learning that will stay with them the rest of their lives. The packs handed out were 51 and that is about normal per the three distribution days (hence running out of storage space due to our packing numbers). The idea of the boys gaining this experience was Peter Ross's and although I was their Chaperone for the day I was so privileged to be a part of this experience which us all a greater inside into the real workings of this wonderful organisation.

Thanks so much everyone who participated, you are the real STARS and I am sure that we will get further days made available in the future as some of the other clubs may need assistance.