One thousand Fridays baking biscuits for teens experiencing hardship.

For 20 years the biscuit ladies from the Howrah Anglican Parish have been baking treats for young people staying in crisis accommodation.

Margaret Kelly is one of the original biscuit ladies. Every Friday she delivers a basket of goodies to Anglicare’s 24 hour fully supported youth crisis accommodation in southern Tasmania.

This facility not only provides a safe place to sleep for young males, it offers mentoring and teaches life skills and self-care. The regular delivery of home baked treats is a special kindness and the young people look forward to their arrival.

“The boys are always excited to greet me. And they like to take a peek under the cloth to see what I’m bringing that day,” said Margaret. “They love that there are ladies thinking of them and baking them special treats”.

Many of the young men who spend time in crisis accommodation have previously experienced trauma such as witnessing or being subjected to violence. Some struggle with drug and alcohol addictions. Most of them have experienced insecure housing which means their schooling has been disrupted.

The biscuit ladies began their weekly mission 20 years ago after a visit to their parish by Anglicare’s CEO Chris Jones. “We asked him, ‘what can we do to help?’ and he responded by asking if we could cook,” said Margaret. “And so we’ve been baking ever since”.

Recently Anglicare arranged a special morning tea for the volunteers to recognise their many years of service.

Esther, who is now 88, became involved in the cooking roster after her husband passed away 6 years ago. She often bakes kiss biscuits. “When I ice them I dip them in hundreds and thousands for a bit of fun. And with my chocolate coconut slice, I always top this with chocolate icing”.

You can imagine the teens love chocolate best. Lesley learnt this the hard way.  “When I first started I made the most delicious fruit cake but this wasn’t popular,” she laughed. “So now I’ve mastered rocky road. And I vary the recipe depending on what’s in the pantry. Often I pop in pieces of a Crunchy chocolate bar, Turkish delight or even liquorice”.

Betty always puts lollies on her treats. “Smarties or Jubes, it makes them more enticing,” she said.

And her baking is widely admired by her fellow biscuit ladies. “She makes the most gorgeous little cupcakes with tiny teddies on top,” said Margaret. “And she bakes stained glassed star biscuits”. These are made by putting a piece of toffee in the middle of the biscuit. This then melts in the oven to take on a beautiful glass-like appearance.

True to their kind natures, the volunteers have also pitched in to provide Christmas gifts for the young people as well as other household items. “This year we’ve purchased new quilt covers to brighten the bedrooms,” said Margaret.

“I tell the ladies, if you could see the looks on the boys’ faces, then you’d know just how much what you do is appreciated”.

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