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John Curtin Medallists

Beverley and John Lowe (2010)

Beverley and John Lowe - 2010 John Curtin Medal recipients Beverley and John Lowe - 2010 John Curtin Medal recipients

Beverley and John Lowe have a personal quest to make the world a better place.

It is this strong belief that led them to create Manna Industries, a charity helping to feed the homeless people of inner-city Perth.

From a humble beginning, Manna Industries has grown to become the leading volunteer operated food program in Western Australia.

Last year Manna Industries served 53,000 meals to Perth's homeless, 10,000 breakfasts to hungry school children and 4000 food parcels to families in need.

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Two hundred volunteers give their time to Manna Industries every week to meet the growing demand of Perth's homeless people.

In their early lives, Beverley grew up in a small South Australian town, learning how to cook at her grandparent's boarding house, while John immigrated to Australia from England aged 16 to train in agriculture.

The couple met in 1976 and married in Darwin. They farmed, raised a family of six and served their community together.

They now have 16 grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

They moved to Perth in 1982 to access specialist support for their hearing impaired son. Both worked in the disability sector and established a deaf signing choir.

In 1996, the couple turned their attention to those less fortunate after they noticed a group of homeless people sitting in an inner-city park in Northbridge.

Beverley decided they should go home and make soup for them.

Fourteen years later, Beverley and John Lowe are still cooking and distributing food to Perth's homeless people.

In their first eight years, they cooked soup in their home kitchen and distributed it from their family car in a Northbridge park. They spent their retirement funds to make sure everyone was fed.

Manna Industries now serves more than 1200 meals to homeless people each week. The food is prepared daily from fresh ingredients with a rotating menu of traditional home-style dishes.

The meals are served with love and they treat their clients with respect and dignity, which they feel is just as important as the meal.

During this time the retired farmers have also had personal setbacks to overcome, with both Beverley and John experiencing serious health problems. Yet, despite the setbacks, Manna Industries has survived, flourished and expanded.

In 2001, Manna Industries established a school's breakfast program, called Manna Kids, in five primary schools across Perth.

Each week students, who would otherwise have little or no breakfast, enjoy a choice of cereal, baked beans, toast, juice, milk and fresh fruit.

More than 600 breakfasts are now prepared each week, and this figure is growing. Providing breakfast for these children has noticeably improved their classroom attention, behaviour and school attendance.

Manna Kids opened a purpose-built cooking facility at Maddington Primary School to teach students how to prepare simple healthy meals using fresh produce from the school's kitchen garden.

Opened in April 2010, this is the first dedicated cooking area for primary-aged children in Western Australia.

Manna Kids also launched the Winter School Uniform Project in 2008 and has since provided warm winter uniform packs to more than 1200 Perth primary school students.

In 2008, Beverley and John were each awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for their services to the community.

The couple's dedication to those less fortunate has necessitated a high degree of self sacrifice, yet their devotion and love for those who have so little remains high.

It is this tireless work to make a difference in others' lives that makes Beverley and John Lowe worthy recipients of the John Curtin Medal for 2010.