A lifelong journey from books to cook

Toni Halley from Hervey Bay spends her days in the service of others at the Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre's Comfort Kitchen program.
Toni Halley from Hervey Bay spends her days in the service of others at the Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre's Comfort Kitchen program. Joshuah Buckle

AFTER a long and happy life in the publishing game, Hervey Bay retiree and book lover Toni Halley now volunteers her time in the service of others at the Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre's Comfort Kitchen program.

This September will mark two years at Comfort Kitchen for Toni, who cooks, helps with the Tuesday and Thursday cafe, helps with menu planning and even does the shopping for the group.

"We came up from Brisbane to live in Hervey Bay, I was retired and was wondering what I could do with myself,” she said.

"I started off at Meals on Wheels for a while, but when I was talking to my hairdresser she told me about Comfort Kitchen.

"I sent them a message on Facebook saying here I am and two days later I was working.”

Toni's first job was at a book shop at the age of 16 in Hobart and her love for the industry led her to Brisbane where she worked in another book shop, before moving into pre-packaging for schools.

"Around 30 years ago I started in the publishing industry at Walker Books then was poached by a company which was part of Harper Collins called Golden Press.”

After the digital age caught up to the publishing industry, Toni was offered a redundancy which she happily took as she was nearing retirement and, after a brief stint in real estate, moved to Hervey Bay.

During her time as a publishing rep, Toni visited Hervey Bay many times and also had a good friend, with whom she grew up in Tassie, living in the area.

She thought about moving back to Tasmania, but decided she didn't want to live with the cold, so she got set to make the move to Hervey Bay.

"It's a really nice community and I've met and made some really nice friends, mostly through my volunteer work,” she said.

"It's great to be able to give something nice back to the community and I love every minute of it.

"On Wednesdays there's just this huge community feeling when we finish the cafe at one o'clock and the cooking for Comfort Kitchen starts, everyone just pitches in.

"Then at night you see all these guys come in and sit down and they get this really great quality meal and they're all treated so well, it's just amazing, everyone's so happy.

"It's one of the most rewarding things I've ever done in my life.”

Topics:  comfort kitchen fccommunity volunteer

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