Brightening up people's lives during the COVID pandemic has become a labour of love for Port Stephens pensioners Rachael and Neville McDermott.
The selfless couple have become the talk of the town on social media - their Brighter Bay Days Facebook page has attracted nearly 1200 members - for their kind and caring nature and their generosity in delivering free hampers and platters to those in need.
"The concept of delivering groceries started last year when COVID-19 first hit and we began hearing stories of elderly people experiencing isolation and families facing the impacts of job losses and lockdowns," Rachael said.
"So we set up a free delivery service, offering to do the shopping for those people who could not get to the shops to buy their groceries. However, we found that there were others offering similar services, so when this year's lockdown came into force we decided to go one step further and buy the groceries and personally deliver them."
The couple, from Anna Bay, set up a Facebook page and soon they were getting calls from people in need not just on the Tomaree peninsula, but right across Port Stephens.
The initiative has taken off.
"We deliver hampers seven days a week and on Friday we randomly deliver eight bright boxes ... it has become so popular that people have labelled Fridays in the Port as 'Bright Box Day'."
Rachael said that the gift hampers were for people having a tough time with illnesses such as cancer patients and their partners/kids, those with disabilities or mental health problems and elderly who are feeling isolated and lonely.
"We customise each gift hamper to include some of the recipients' favourite snacks or interests.. We are only on pensions but we enjoy helping people and families who are struggling for essentials."
The couple say that the 'Bright Boxes' which are delivered each Friday to homes right across Port Stephens including Tomaree, Tilligerry peninsulas, Medowie and Raymond Terrace, are packed with goodies.
"The ingredients vary each week but we do have custom-made cookies and we purchase the yellow biscuits from local business Sweets For The Soul." They are stamped: 'With love from Rach and Nev'.
The couple have also launched a 'Bright Bay Treasure Hunt', where logo tiles are left in random mystery places and prizes are awarded to anyone who can find them and make contact online.
"We also do other little fun side games on our page, like guessing competitions."
Rachael and Neville who are on a pension say they are overwhelmed with the positive response from the wider Port Stephens community.
Recently, they also conducted a raffle for WINC (Wildlife In Need of Care) raising $2200 after selling mroe than 500 tickets with 25 great prizes.
"We also offer help with other things and we love to read the responses on our Facebook page - they mean so much to us and it's great to know we are putting a smile on the faces of people who are doing it tough."
Some of the messages include: 'You are dead-set legends'; 'Absolutely love what you are doing'; 'It's just so lovely to have generous people'; 'It's great to share some happiness'; 'Angels who know how to make people smile'; and 'What a truly wonderful initiative for the local community'.
To make contact with Rachael and Neville search Brighter Bay Days on Facebook.
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