Mac's magic puddings
BEV CRETHAR cuts a diminutive figure in the large kitchen in Alstonville where Father Mac's Heavenly Puddings are created.
She is almost hidden among the four industrial steamers, two sets of burners, innumerable racks and packing tables in the kitchen, which is itself tucked away behind St Joseph's Primary School.
But Ms Crethar is a powerhouse of productivity, as is her team of paid staff and volunteers, who every year bake between 30,000 and 50,000 puddings for Christmas consumption.
The business that began in Father McCarthy's home kitchen in the mid-1980s to raise money for school buildings and which now supplies puddings by thepallet-load, has just launched an online shop.
And so far, so good, Ms Crethar said.
"It has only been live for a few days and we have customers using the online facility already," she said.
"We have limited retailers that stock our puddings and we are very grateful for those organisations that support us. But we know that the online ordering will increase our customer satisfaction due to convenience."
Despite the volumes involved, the puddings are made in batches of 12 at a time "to maintain the home-made flavour" - which is also aided by the use of real rum, jumbo eggs and fresh butter.
"We use quality ingredients," Ms Crethar said. "Without that we wouldn't have survived."
And she should know, having worked in the highly competitive fashion industry before throwing in her lot with Father Mac many years ago.
Father Mac's Heavenly Puddings is part of the Alstonville Parish, but while much of the proceeds go back into the parish - continuing to improve the school and the lives of parishioners - the benefits extend well beyond the Northern Rivers and even overseas.
"Father Mac's donates thousands of puddings to special groups so they can fundraise and donates proceeds of the sales to manyessential projects," Ms Crethar said.
"Every year, for many years, we are very pleased to help the Lismore Soup Kitchen by supplying their puddings for Christmas Day and we assist where necessary throughout the year."
It has even helped to sponsor a number of projects in Zimbabwe.
The business also provides a valuable service for those who work there - and not just the five staff who are paid for the six production months from July, and who are trained in WorkCover and OHS regulations.
"Some volunteers are mothers returning to work, and can develop confidence and skills to move into paid work," Ms Crethar said.
The puddings come in two sizes - 800g and 1.6kg and for three years have included a gluten-free variety, which has been popular.
They are stocked in retail outlets on the North Coast and southeast Queensland.
Phone the factory on 6628 5474 or visit www.fathermac.org.au