By Derek Schlennstedt
Just two weeks after the Dandenong Ranges Emergency Relief Service (DRERS) received the Mail Group of the Year award, DRERS founders Frank and Meryl Watson have received an Australia Day OAM for their service to the community of the Dandenong Ranges.
It is a service that has improved the lives of many, and the couple has dedicated 22 years to helping people less fortunate.
Speaking to the Mail, it’s clear that the passion to help still bubbles beneath.
“As an ordained minister, a part of my ministry is to help others and this was set up to help others in need,” Mr Watson said.
“We started off with just me and my wife giving out food wherever we could and to people who were referred to us, and from the referral we delivered the parcels to the people who needed it most.”
“In those days we had one freezer and a car and were doing everything ourselves.”
As its name suggests, the Dandenong Ranges Emergency Relief Service provides emergency relief. Each year, across the Dandenongs, hundreds of individuals and families come to DRERS for help meeting day-to-day expenses or paying unexpected bills.
A lot has changed since those early days, but the group has remained an enduring part of the hills culture.
Both Frank and Meryl are still active members of the DRERS family with Frank acting as president.
Over the 22 years the organisation has changed, though the basic function of what they are doing – helping those in need – has never changed, and still hasn’t to this day.
While Frank and Meryl may be the matriarch and patriarch of the organisation, they both dedicated their OAM’s to the team at DRERS and said the award should not go to any one person. “To walk in here, see the volunteers in, and see how it all works together, I think that is the satisfaction you get from it. Seeing what it has grown into and to have such a dedicated and great team.”
“I think this medal should be given to all of them. It’s definitely dedicated to the whole groups of DRERS – the volunteers and the workers, because without them it wouldn’t be going.”
“We’re just two ordinary people. Yes, im a pastor, but that’s my job anyway … we just got along with what we felt we needed to do.”