Soup kitchen cooks up hearty meals for the needy

Soup kitchen cooks up hearty meals for the needy
Mr Tony Tay (centre), the founder of soup kitchen Willing Hearts, helping to prepare food at the charity's kitchen in Genting Lane. His day starts at 4.30am, and he leaves only around 7pm, after the kitchen has been cleaned and the next day's food supplies prepared.

The Willing Hearts kitchen, tucked in a corner of an industrial building in Genting Lane, is a hive of activity.

A row of volunteer chefs cook up a storm in woks double the size of normal ones. Another line of volunteers - many of them students - ladle steaming portions into styrofoam containers.

In the middle of it all is 66-year-old Tony Tay. Every day, the Willing Hearts founder and 200 volunteers prepare 3,000 meals to be distributed to the poor and needy.

"Work? This is not work. Work is stress. Here, I come to see friends and chit-chat. Every day is a day off," says the retired businessman, despite the long hours.

Mr Tay, who was awarded the President's Award for Volunteerism last month, starts his day at 4.30am. He leaves around 7pm, after the kitchen is cleaned and food supplies for the next day are prepared. He takes his breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner on-site.

Dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, he readily lends a hand wherever it is needed - stirring a wok, loading a trolley - and makes sure the food gets to the right destination out of 38 distribution points, most of them being Housing Board void decks.

There is also the work in organising the charity's move next year to larger premises in Jalan Ubi, which will allow it to serve 2,000 more meals a day.

The new site will include a medical clinic, dentist and traditional Chinese medicine services. "But nothing is ready," says Mr Tay during a recent interview. "We are just living from day to day."

He estimates that the cost of setting up the new location is close to $400,000, including the $150,000 needed to buy five new combi-ovens. His organisation is appealing for donations for the ovens, which will streamline the cooking and allow Willing Hearts to cater for more people.

Mr Tay, who used to run his own insurance business, is sure that many more people would follow in his footsteps if they were aware of the extent to which some may need help.

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