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TLC's Healthy Delivered Meals


Author: Monica Higgins

Walt Whitman once said, "charity and personal force are the only investments worth anything." That may be so, but charity is serious business these days and these organizations need a business plan, cash flow and investment, to realise their philanthropic goals.

While recent reports suggest Australia is in a phase of donor fatigue, the number of charities and non-profit organizations popping up ? and flourishing ? suggests otherwise.

From charities for cancer and every other known disease, to education, the environment and natural disaster recovery, it would seem Australians are happy to open their wallets for a good cause. Also peeling bills from their folds are benevolent ex-professionals and corporates keen to make a difference to the state of our nation.

These organizations may not be the Starlights, St Vinnies or RSPCAs of the world, but their socially aware creators and subsequent employees have bent a backbone or two to make a dent in research and improving the quality of life.

While many of us daydream of being instrumental in saving a forest of ancient trees or feeding a village of starving children, going the whole nine yards is not as easy ? or as instantly gratifying ? as we imagine it might be. Making that business ?succeed? requires a good dose of dedication and patience.

The CEO of Tender Loving Cuisine (TLC), Jack Barker should know. He's been at it for a decade, but it took five years just to break even. Today, the meals on wheels-style organisation proudly carries the Heart Foundation tick and is working closely with Diabetes Australia.

But the business had humble beginnings and it was a long road to becoming the fully self-funded operation that TLC is today.

With an entrepreneurial and accounting background, Barker's benevolent business idea arose from helping out a mate with his meals after a debilitating car accident.

The food was a hit and it set the wheels in motion for a premium meal delivery service with a client base of elderly and the unwell.

Barker entered into an agreement with NSW Health to provide home-delivered dinners to discharged hospital patients from Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital, and now many more public and private hospitals use the service.

"To run an organisation, you have to be absolutely committed because it's not a money-motivated industry. The motivation instead comes from providing a great product or service that helps others. And the satisfaction and gratitude for doing so is very rewarding."

Barker's motivation was well and truly tested at the start when the staff working alongside him found the role too time-consuming, and left the now 65-year-old to encourage health care workers, social workers and dieticians to spread the word.


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