by JEFF DILLON
Passing by an open window at the Kavanagh College kitchen on York Place in Dunedin on a Saturday morning in mid-May, it was obvious from the buzz of conversation that there was a lot of activity going on inside.
nside the kitchen, the white protective head coverings worn on the volunteers’ heads produced an image of a colony of worker bees busy at, or hovering near, tables where tower stacks of sliced white sandwich bread awaited the attention of a volunteer to transform it from a flat bare slice into a roll with a delicious cheesy filling.
Yes! This hive of industry was the hub for the great cheese roll-making activity for 2021 in aid of the Nano Nagle Charitable Trust (NNCT).
The action had first started at 7.30 am with the delivery of 790 loaves of Couplands sandwich bread to the college kitchen area. Earlier than that, forty-five 5kg bags of grated cheese had been obtained from Link Food Services at a discounted price. (A further 12 bags had to be obtained later in the day to complete the orders) Those bags had been divided into 2.5 kg amounts in readiness for the operation. Other special ingredients had also been purchased.
At 9am, the volunteers began arriving from parishes all over Dunedin, and swelled to a team of more than 50 people. The majority were middle-aged to senior women, with a sprinkling of men, and also some senior pupils from Kavanagh College. Also joining in were Presentation Sisters Veronica Casey, PBVM, and Noreen McGrath, PBVM. Their order was founded by Nano Nagle.
The operation swung into action with precision as various tasks were assigned and the volunteers took up their positions. Shona Brown and Philippa O’Neill wielded their high- pitched sounding stick blenders to mix up the ingredients in two large saucepans, having added hot water. A few minutes of energetic probing with the sticks reduced the ingredients to a yellow slurry, which was tipped into 2-litre ice cream containers, and distributed to the waiting tables. The two committee members continued producing more blended filling to keep the flow going.
This fundraiser is a very important one for NNCT. It is usually an annual event, but could not be held in 2020, because of Covid-19. That disruption appears to have had a negative impact on response this year. Orders for 1200 dozen were down, compared to the total in 2019. Also, a few of the Dunedin parishes were not represented on the committee this year, as a few people had dropped out during 2020. There is a need for willing people to come forward and take part.
The production of 14,400 individual cheese rolls was achieved, and the operation was completed by 5pm, thanks to the dedicated effort of the volunteers, many of whom spent the whole day helping.
By that stage, the rolls had been packaged into dozen bags, which had been labelled and assembled into groups, ready to be distributed to the relevant parish churches for vigil or Sunday Mass times. People had three choices when ordering. One dozen cost $7.50, three dozen cost $20, and 5 dozen cost $32.
While the funds raised by this mammoth operation are significant, the NNCT relies very much on donations throughout the year to be able to provide the service they exist for. They support children in Catholic schools to remain there by meeting the cost of their attendance dues, where there is clear evidence of need. Applications can be made, and have to meet precise criteria to be successful.
As an example of what the Trust support means, during this last difficult year they had distributions in July and December 2020, which supported 55 children who met the criteria throughout New Zealand, with grants totalling $38,499 to help them stay and receive an education at a Catholic school.