When duty calls, it’s Valente time.
Mother of three, Shaz Harrison-Shaw, knows all about what it’s like to be financially strapped when trying to maintain normality and at the same time bring up a young family.
“Because of my own situation some years ago, my family was struggling financially. Sometimes all it needs is a brief respite from the pressure of trying to cope when you don’t have very much, and I have made it my mission to help people that are in the same position that I experienced,” said Shaz.
Back in 2012, Shaz started “Need a Feed” as a not for profit organisation to collect and distribute food parcels to individuals and families in need. Today, after just four years, she organises a team of over 20 volunteers that cover an area around Wollongong that stretches from Albion Park to Helensburgh, helping to keep food flowing to the needy and families suffering from undue stress.
“We work in partnership with several organisations who connect us with families who need food support,” said Shaz.
“Clients who are referred to us pay a nominal fee to receive the food parcel – this helps to sustain the food programs and also helps clients to feel they are contributing to the community. Fresh food is added to the parcel depending upon availability,” she added.
Thanks to the involvement of the IMB Bank, the Need a Feed service received a significant boost to its funding. As the result of a donation from the IMB Bank Community Foundation, Shaz was able to head off to a suitable local vehicle dealership to find the ideal vehicle that could assist with collection and delivery, but could double up as family transport as well.
“We had the funding organised to purchase a suitable vehicle, but when we started telephoning some of the different dealerships around the Sydney area a lot of the sales departments didn’t even bother to return our call. Even after repeated calls they ignored our request for a quote for a suitable vehicle.
“That attitude changed when we rang Mercedes-Benz. Originally we had thought the Vito would be too expensive, but when we enquired we found the cooperation and interest of Mercedes-Benz was really encouraging.
“All too easily we arranged to purchase a Mercedes-Benz Valente within our budget through our local Wollongong dealership, and it has turned out to be a fantastic vehicle.
“It’s such a great dual-purpose design as it can turn from people mover into cargo carrier just by removing the seats. The diesel engine is really economical; we only seem to need to refuel it every two weeks.
“The Valente forms the backbone of our distribution, with other vehicles being supplied by our volunteers themselves. Food comes from different locations and we also buy food from retailers that are overstocked.
“Our mission statement is very simple to understand. We’re all about integrity, honesty and transparency to support local families, without discrimination, in times of need.
“We work in partnership with Barnardos Family Referral Service, various neighbourhood centres, DIVRS and the Lions and Rotary Club. These organisations connect us with families and individuals who need support with one of life’s basics – food,” she added.
The Need a Feed organisation has been so successful in its mission to support local families in need that it was recognised in 2015 as the winner of the Momentum Energy Illawarra Business Award for Excellence in Business Ethics.
The Valente operating in the Need a Feed is a past winner of the Delivery Magazine Best People Mover of the Year Award and was developed by Mercedes-Benz specifically for the Australian market.
The latest version of the Valente offers seating for eight with seating configurations that can be changed to suit varying combinations of seats and load space.
Powered by a 2.2-litre, 120 kW, four-cylinder diesel engine with common-rail fuel injection, the BlueEFFICIENCY engine management system optimises exhaust emissions and provides options such as ECO start/stop function that cuts the engine when the vehicle is stationary in traffic. It’s one of the few vehicles currently on sale in the Australian market to match the more stringent Euro 6 exhaust emissions requirements. The combined fuel consumption figure is quoted as being 6.3 l/100 km.
From a safety perspective the new Valente is again a leader in its people-mover segment, with ABS brakes, Electronic Stability Control ADAPTIVE ESP®, passenger airbags including dual front passenger airbags, thorax-pelvis sidebags and front and rear curtain airbags, built in child restraints, Crosswind Assist, adaptive brake lights and the ATTENTION Assist fatigue monitoring system. The Mercedes-Benz ADAPTIVE ESP® system can detect the weight distribution of all passengers at any given time and compensate accordingly in an emergency.
From a driver’s perspective the ease of driving stems from the excellent match of the 2.2-litre diesel with the Mercedes-Benz 7G-TRONIC automatic transmission. With seven ratios, this fluid design of automatic transmission ensures the gearing match for the engine performance is always kept at the ideal position for power, performance and economy. When the driver needs to select gearshifts independently, changes can be made through shift paddles on the steering column. Cruise control and an upper speed limiter are standard features.
In Delivery’s view, the Valente is an ideal choice for buyers looking for a compromise vehicle between people mover and load carrier. The common specification in this model that teams the 2.2-litre diesel with the 7G-TRONIC automatic transmission is an ideal choice for a multitude of different applications.