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Absa Cape Epic Helps Communities in Need


As South Africa approached lockdown in an attempt to halt the spread of COVID-19, communities in Ceres, Tulbagh Wellington and Paarl received a much-needed boost from the Absa Cape Epic, assisted by Green Catering. The towns in question would have hosted the 2020 race, which was cancelled on the eve of the event’s Registration day due to the global Coronavirus pandemic. While thousands of mountain bikers and mountain biking fans were understandably disappointed by the cancellation of the world’s premier mountain bike stage race, the donation of food to those communities is a silver-lining in these uncertain times.

With non-essential business being forced to close, many South Africans entered the lockdown period unsure of where their next pay check, and thus meal, will come from. The donation of all the food which would have been consumed by the Absa Cape Epic riders and crew was therefore even more welcome than it usually would be. Green Catering, the race’s caterers, delivered the food packages to the Ceres, Tulbagh and Paarl/Wellington tourism bureaus. From there they were collected by charities and other organisations identified by the local tourism offices.

“We are happy to help” stated Michael Flinn, the race’s Managing Director. “There are so many people in need right now. COVID-19 and the national lockdown have created a sense of uncertainty in all South Africans, but especially those who are the most financially vulnerable. We hope that this donation of 5.5 tonnes of food helps ease their concerns slightly; helping them stay isolated and thus healthy during the coming weeks.” “It is challenging times like these when we need to stand together as humanity and reach out to others in greater need” Marina Gruttner, the Events and Marketing Director of Green Catering, said, in echo of view the held by the Absa Cape Epic’s management team.

While every organisation receiving a food donation has a heart-warming story to tell a particularly touching tale came from the Steinthal Child and Youth Care Centre in Tulbagh. Steinthal is home to 150 children from needy communities, many of whom are orphans or whose parents are unable to take care of them. While the schools the children attend are closed during the lockdown the home cannot close as the majority of the children have nowhere else to go. Thanks to the Cape Epic and Green Catering not only will those children, who are remaining in Steinthal, have delicious meals during the national lockdown but they will also be enjoying two weeks of desert every evening. “This food donation could not have come at a better time” reiterated Robin Furiss, the headmaster of Steinthal.

In addition to Steinthal the food donations in Tulbagh were distributed to nine other organisations. The local churches in particular play a significant role in feeding the neediest members of the community. It was remarkable to witness the tight-knit community coming together ahead of what is sure to be a time of need for the most vulnerable. “We were nearly overwhelmed by the amount of food the Absa Cape Epic and donated” revealed Patty Nieuwoudt, the CEO of Tulbagh Tourism. “Fortunately, an amazing group of people came together to divide up the food into packages for the ten soup kitchens, old aged homes and the children’s home. One Tulbagh Senior Citizen’s Club member in particular asked me to extend their thanks to the race. They were anticipating challenging times ahead and this donation of food gives them a head start.”

Across the Witzenberg Mountains in Ceres, the donations were equally well-received. Huis Pieter Strauss, a Retirement Home, plans on using the food donated to not only feed their residents but also to provide meals for the needy in nearby Prince Alfred Hamlet. “We had not anticipated the volume of food being donated” Shirley Wagener, Office Manager of Ceres Tourism said. “The representatives of Huis Pieter Strauss had to make three trips to collect all the food we had allocated to them. They run a soup kitchen in Prince Alfred Hamlet, in addition to their in-house kitchen and Ceres Service Centre programme. For elderly residents of the town the service centre provides a daily meal and a chance to get-together. During the lock-down the service centre will be delivering meals instead, as they continue to provide an essential service but aim to do so without placing their elderly beneficiaries at risk.”

In Wellington and Paarl the local tourism council facilitated the distribution to seven worthy causes. Annelize Stroebel and her team identified NORSA, HEART NPO, Ma’s vir Wellington, G Project, Home Andrew Murray, Silwerkruin Home and the Little Fighters Cancer Trust. Along with retirement and children’s homes those organisations include soup kitchens for the homeless and a cancer support centre. HEART NPO in particular serve exceptionally needy communities. Operating in the Smartie Town and Hillside areas of Paarl they provide meals to over 200 vulnerable children and elderly individuals. 

“This was yesterday’s Lunch Service” the charity posted on their Facebook page, on the 27th of March. “Lasagne and rolls from the Cape Epic, Visit Paarl, and Visit Wellington food donation. We bought the containers and salad. Why salad? The lasagne was just enough for one spoonful per person, and our Children and Elderly need fruit and veg to keep their immune systems strong, so we ‘bulked up’ the servings with fresh salad. No frills, just lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber. A lovely meal for 200 children, elderly, sick, frail and disabled individuals, which cost us less than R800.00.”

Anyone wishing to aid a particular organisation or make a general donation, during these challenging times is advised to contact the local tourism offices. They can be reached through their websites: and

“Witnessing the joy that the food donations brought the charities and organisations of Wellington, Paarl, Ceres and Tulbagh was exceptionally heart-warming” Flinn noted. “I trust that the spirt of community cooperation we saw in action there will be enacted throughout South Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all fighting this virus together, trying to flatten the curve and keep the most vulnerable members of South African society safe. Mountain biking may be the centre of our lives, here at the Absa Cape Epic, but this has reminded us all that health and family are vastly more important.”

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