Above: Volunteer Coordinator Linda Driscoll with volunteers Pat Keene and Pam New from Blue Care.
By Stephen Easton
National Volunteers Week kicked off yesterday and non-profit aged care providers were among the organisations to come out and recognise the extremely valuable contributions of time and energy donated to them by volunteers.
Queensland’s largest not-for-profit provider, Blue Care, publicly thanked its 2,300 volunteers and called them the “personal heroes” of their clients and residents, likening them to the everyday people who became heroes during the recent floods that swamped the state.
As a gesture of thanks, a special morning tea will be held tomorrow morning for the organisation’s 265 Brisbane-based volunteers at a café in Kangaroo Point.
Volunteers in community care could help with shopping, outings and transport to medical appointments, while in residential facilities they assist with activities like art, craft, board games, outings, music, gardening and administration.
According to Redland Bay volunteer coordinator, Linda Driscoll, they add a lot to what Blue Care can provide, especially by putting in the extra time that paid staff members cannot to spice up the lives of older Australians.
We would survive without volunteers, but it would be very basic,” Ms Driscoll said. “Because if you think about what they do – especially in residential care – that’s why we value them so much; we wouldn’t survive the way we do without them.”
“They do the relationship-building with clients that the staff members don’t have time to do. Taking them to get their hair done, reading the paper with them or just spending three minutes visiting with someone who doesn’t have anyone else to visit them can make a huge difference.”
“People don’t realise the enormity of what volunteers do. There’s no way we would be able to do what we do without our volunteers; they are a real blessing to Blue Care.”
Above: A Blue Care volunteer with a nursing home resident.
Blue Care offers a wide range of options for volunteers to help out with both community and residential care, as well as opportunities for training at Certificate II and III levels, which can lead to paid employment down the track.
Ms Driscoll said people who volunteered wanted to give back to the community, but also had often experienced the loss of their own parents or significant others, and so got a lot out of being involved.
“Probably the biggest reason is they have just lost mum or dad, lost their wife or husband and they’d had all these plans for retirement.”
“You meet people who come in with a void and they want to fill that void. Grief is a need – it really is – and often volunteering can fill that void in their lives. When we should be helping them, they actually come to help us.”
As an example of one of Blue Care’s dedicated volunteers, Ms Driscoll told of a lady in her area who has run a fundraising garage sale for Blue Care for the past 23 years, while other aged care providers issued statements lauding their own volunteers.
Villa Maria chose the story of Carol Pickering, 67, as a case in point. She has donated 32 years of her time to the organisation, first through a nursing home in the Melbourne suburb of Wantirna, and later to a nearby facility that runs day programs for people with disabilities.
UnitingCare Ageing NSW.ACT told of Beryl Melbourn, a former nurse who manages a kiosk at Northaven Retirement Village in northern Sydney six days a week, and also helped establish a reflexology clinic for residents.
Ms Melbourn’s reason for volunteering could have been given by almost any of her thousands of fellow volunteers around Australia: “I have always wanted to help people.”