VRC gifted Flemington bountiful blooms to COVID-19 frontline workers and local community organisations.
BY CELIA PURDEY
The crowds may not have been there to appreciate them due to COVID-19, but the Flemington roses bloomed as beautifully as ever. To share them with as many people as possible, the VRC gifted the bountiful blooms to frontline workers and local community organisations.
Mick Ryan experienced a Melbourne Cup Carnival like no other in 2020. The Flemington Senior Manager Grounds and Gardens has been tending to the roses with his team for decades, ensuring that they are at their absolute best for the tens of thousands of people who descend on Flemington in November. From the famous rose arbour to the blooms lining the mounting yard and everywhere in between, the Flemington roses in spring are a sight to behold. They are also a labour of love for Ryan and his team, who work tirelessly throughout the year tending to them, as well as the rest of the beautiful Flemington grounds.
Although the pandemic put a stop to the thousands of selfies taken in front of the floral displays, and noses taking in the aroma, the roses were still firmly front and centre throughout Network 10’s coverage of the Carnival. Hard to miss, they lit up the TV screen, bringing happiness to many albeit from afar.
To ensure that their beauty did not go wasted, the VRC, led by the Tourism, Government, International and Community team, partnered with Rotary Flemington to assemble and distribute bunches of roses to frontline workers affected by the pandemic, as well as local community organisations in the area. These included Farnham Street Neighbourhood Learning Centre, Arcadia Aged Care Essendon, The Venny, Gregory Lodge Aged Care, Kensington Neighbourhood House which has provided frontline interpreting and food support, Flemington Community Centre, Doutta Galla Nursing Home, Lynch’s Bridge Nursing Home and Wingate Avenue Community Centre.
This initiative provided an opportunity for the Club to support and say thank you to those in the local community and frontline workers most affected by the challenges of 2020.
Commenting that although it was “unprecedented to cut off our roses”, Ryan and his team happily harvested the predominantly floribunda roses, wanting to bring a smile to the faces of those who have had a tough year and thank them. Volunteers from Rotary Flemington assembled and distributed more than 300 bouquets of the glorious blooms. Carolina from Rotary knew that the gesture would be much appreciated: “We all love someone to think about us, and there are a lot of people out there who don’t have that generally, so this is great for them.”
Gifting the floral arrangements from race days is something that the VRC has done for many years, ensuring the blooms are enjoyed longer and by as many people as possible. The Club has worked with Peter Mac in the past, and now with The Royal Melbourne Hospital to distribute the flowers. A group of volunteers collect the flowers and they are then sent to their various locations, changing it so it is not always the same people getting them.”
Following the quiet Melbourne Cup Carnival at Headquarters, the COVID-19 pandemic looked to be getting under some control in Victoria in the New Year, with life finally gaining some semblance of normality. Happily, a limited number of spectators were permitted to return to Flemington for Christmas Race Day on 19 December. After a successful January and with race fans finally settling back on course, a five-day snap lockdown in February was suddenly imposed on the eve of Black Caviar, The Great Horse Race Day, closing the doors to patrons once again.
With food and flowers already prepared and ready to go, the VRC again pivoted, swiftly ensuring that nothing went to waste. The food was donated to the very grateful Salvation Army, and flowers distributed to elderly home care facilities in the Strathmore area, no doubt brightening up their day.
Like the flowers, the VRC has a long and proud history of donating its surplus food. Previous partners included the food charity SecondBite, and they now work with The Salvation Army. “We’ve been working with the Salvation Army since June 2018,” said Peter Rowland Chef de Cuisine, Shannon McKay. “We send them all of our excess food such as cheeses, sandwiches, milk, fruit and vegetables, bread ... whatever we can. We have a great relationship with them, and are so happy that they can use our surplus food and distribute it where it’s most needed.”
Although the snap lockdown prior to Black Caviar, The Great Horse Race Day was disappointing, the silver lining was that the food would not go to waste.
“Fortunately we were able to freeze some items, but everything else that we could give, we did,” said McKay. “This included hundreds of portions of cheese, crates of bread and milk, and much, much more. If we could do even more, we would.”