As Australia marks National Volunteer Week, aged care providers across the country have recognised the contribution of volunteers who generously donate their time to assist their organisations.
One such volunteer is Southern Cross Care VIC’s Wally O’Meara, who has volunteered at the organisation’s Dandenong facility for 15 years and is the provider’s second oldest volunteer.
“I enjoy helping other people because it keeps me going. I can’t think of a better way to pass my time and I have no intention to retire!” said Wally.
Wally began volunteering when he lived in an independent living unit next to the facility, sometimes joining the residents for meals. He thought staff could use an extra pair of hands, and took the initiative to help serve morning and afternoon tea in his spare time.
Now a resident at the Dandenong home himself, Wally continues to support other residents – many younger than him. He facilitates the indoor golf competition and bingo sessions, and entertains residents by playing pieces on the organ. He assists the bowling group and maintains the fish tank.
Lifestyle coordinator, Sarah Cummins said that Wally is an inspiration. “Wally has an enormous heart. His enthusiasm and ability to encourage other residents to join in an activity and to remain connected is simply amazing,” she said
Good to give back
Kevin Dooley, 80, was among some 300 volunteers from Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH) celebrated this week. He has volunteered with VMCH for 25 years.
Twice a week at VMCH’s John R Hannah, Kevin, a musician, provides compositions for mass and lively piano for sing-alongs.
“I like to play songs of their era and youth like ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ or ‘I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen’,” said Kevin, who said he’d continue volunteering “until his fingers give it away”.
“When you’re quite well yourself and you’ve had a pretty good life, it’s good to give something back.”
Volunteer services manager Bronwyn Summers said without the commitment and generousity of volunteers, the lives of the people VMCH supports would be much the poorer.
Victorian provider Benetas has over 400 volunteers and this week, held its 13th annual Volunteer Thank You Luncheon. It acknowledged all volunteers, but particularly the contribution of two – Richard Gibbs and Bernadette Millesi, who both marked 30 years of volunteering with the organisation.
Benetas CEO Sandra Hills said volunteers had donated over 16,000 hours of their time to assist the provider this year.
“We know that we wouldn’t be able to do the work we do without the very important service of our volunteers,” said Ms Hills.
“They are the unsung heroes of our organisation; everything they do, whether it be sharing a cuppa with a resident, volunteering at the local op shop to raise much needed funds, or driving an older person living at home to a medical appointment, makes the world of difference.”
Built on volunteering
NSW provider Warrigal was founded by volunteers in the 1960s, and the organisation’s 350 volunteers continue to provide a major role in the provision of services.
“Our volunteers get involved in many activities including driving the Warrigal buses for outings, running activities such as bingo and singing for our residents, assisting at functions and fundraising,” said Warrigal CEO Mark Sewell.
Warrigal ran a series of organisation-wide events this week to thank volunteers, whose contribution Mr Sewell called ‘essential’.
Enhancing quality of life
Also in NSW, Montefiore Home celebrated National Volunteer Week with an Israeli breakfast and award ceremony at its Randwick Campus.
Hazel Stein, volunteer manager, said the organisation’s 500 volunteers provide an average 40,000 hours of support per year.
“By giving generously of their time and sharing their talents, our volunteers contribute to the social and emotional wellbeing of our ageing residents and enhance their quality of life,” said Hazel Stein, volunteer manager at Montefiore Home.
Different strength and passions
Uniting AgeWell’s 600 dedicated volunteers were celebrated through a series of luncheons, barbeques, dancing and high teas.
Community lifestyle coordinator Matt Daley said each volunteer had different strengths and passions they could bring to enhance the lives and wellbeing of clients.
“Volunteers give us the opportunity to enhance the range of activities we can offer our clients”, he said.
“They come from all backgrounds and age groups, and assist in a variety of ways, with many going above and beyond their expectations.”
Already Carinity’s volunteer of the year, Ruth Van Beek was recognised as Queensland’s best aged care volunteer 2016 at Leading Aged Care Services Queensland’s Excellence in Care Awards.
“Volunteering is what I live for and the residents and staff give me as much as I give them. They’re like my family,” said Ruth.
Growing in number
Churches of Christ held a series of celebratory events this week in recognition of its volunteers across each service area. The organisation saw a 41 per cent growth in its volunteer numbers over the last year, with now over 1,500 people donating their time.
“Our volunteers contribute a lot of their time, care, and commitment, not only to the work of our organisation, but also to the community, bringing a brighter future for all,” CEO Dean Phelan said
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