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nfphub Sounding Board – Member Profile

Introducing: Sharyn Broer, the CEO of Meals on Wheels and a nfphub Sounding Board Member.

Sharyn is a qualified Occupational Therapist whose career started at the Lyell McEwin Health Service. Having worked for Meals on Wheels since 2010, her role includes Secretary of the Australian Meals on Wheels Association. This enables her to actively advocate for the 50,000 Australians supported by 740 Meals on Wheels service outlets, who engage nearly 90,000 volunteers.

Tell us a bit about your professional career?

I am a qualified Occupational Therapist. My first job was at the Lyell McEwin Health Service at Elizabeth, where I worked mainly in domiciliary care, with opportunities to deliver inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services. Over time I found that my passion was for home based care, where the contribution we were making to supporting people’s independence was clearly evident.

My shift from purely clinical work into managerial positions came with the creation of a fully-self funding allied health business unit within Northern Domiciliary Care, along with establishing a family retail business. The retail business failed after 3 years, which provided me with some really important business lessons, whilst our business unit, Therapy Solutions, grew strongly and is still in operation nearly 20 years down the track.

Following various mergers and de-mergers of public health units, and further managerial study and experience, I progressed through senior management positions with the (then, at least) largest home and community care funded service provider in Adelaide, Domiciliary Care SA. I was promoted to the position of Acting Executive Director about 3 months before it was restructured out of existence!

In August 2010 I was appointed as CEO of Meals on Wheels SA. My role involves setting and executing our strategy to help clients live independently in their own homes. Part of the job involves my role as Secretary of the Australian Meals on Wheels Association, enabling me to actively advocate for the 50,000 Australians supported by 740 Meals on Wheels service outlets who engage nearly 90,000 volunteers.

Tell us a bit about your organisation?

I oversee the largest community-based volunteer organisation in South Australia, with some 88 branches right across the State and a volunteer workforce of around 8500 people performing a wide variety of tasks. We are a mission driven, non-profit organisation with over 75% of our income coming from consumer payments, 22% from government funding programs and the remainder from donations, bequests, and investment earnings.

We are more than just a meal. Meals on Wheels empowers people and encourages independence. Our customers count on us for affordable, nourishing meals and friendly contact so they can continue living within their own homes.

Volunteers deliver an average of 4,000 meals each day. Our volunteers cook about 2/3 of those meals from scratch each morning in one of our 30 kitchens, with the balance provided through supply contracts with country hospitals or through our in-house cook-chill production facility.

Since we started as a ‘social experiment’ in South Australia 60 years ago, we have delivered more than 45 million meals to people in need of support for a variety of reasons. This may be that they are unable to prepare a meal or shop for themselves with ease, they are recovering after hospitalisation, major illness or surgery, have a disability, are in their senior years, have carer responsibilities or are someone needing assistance due to a special circumstance or crisis.

Our clients have come to rely on Meals on Wheels SA and really look forward to the delivery visits from our friendly volunteers.

My career highlight would be?

My appointment as CEO of Meals On Wheels back in 2010 would have to be the highlight. It’s an inspiring, rewarding and challenging position all at the same time.

The biggest challenge of being a CEO is?

Learning to become an expert cat wrangler! The constant need to juggle the competing priorities of strategic vision and leadership with daily operational management, when getting 4,000 meals a day out into the community only happens through coordinating the efforts of 8,500 volunteers. Maintaining a highly functioning dynamic between myself and our voluntary Board is also an ongoing challenge. More than half of our Board members have a leadership role in one of our branches, which provides a valuable perspective in the Board room but can also result in more focus on operational aspects of the organisation.

The thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is?

Besides needing to let our two spoodles out and lever my teenage sons out of their beds? Knowing that I am heading to work for an SA icon. It is a privilege to work for an organisation that provides such a valuable community service. Knowing that you’re making a real difference everyday to the lives of so many South Australians is extremely rewarding.

Our staff and volunteers are also truly inspiring. They are extremely dedicated and passionate about the work they undertake. Being surrounded by such positivity makes coming to work each day a real pleasure.

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