Tag Archives: volunteers

Volunteers make the world go round

CAN YOU IMAGINE a world without volunteers? Volunteers do so much for our community, our CFA, Food Bank, Meals on Wheels, SES, Op Shops, sporting clubs, Run Warrandyte, Neighbourhood House… they even write for the Diary. Volunteering has taken a bit of a hit during the pandemic, but local community organisations are hoping for a resurgence in volunteerism now COVID lockdown seems to be behind us.
If ever there was a time to step up and volunteer it was right now.
The Diary has put together a few suggestions to how you can help. Judy Hall from Warrandyte Rotary said the pandemic has been causing a real problem with a lot of volunteers.
“A lot of volunteers are older, and they are more worried about going into the community.” She hopes that once the pandemic is over, people might feel a little more disposed to getting out and about and helping out.
“There are so many good openings for volunteers, there is no reason for anyone to be bored,” Judy said. Lions Club, Rotary, and the Warrandyte Community Association and Doncare are among several groups in the local area that rely on volunteers to help people in the community through fundraising and hands-on projects. Local community organisations are looking for people to join them to enrich and enhance life in Warrandyte for all of us. Beyond the feel-good factor of helping others, volunteering can be a great way of gaining employable skills, connect with other like-minded people — and it looks great on your CV. While service clubs like Rotary and Lions may have, in the past, been seen as stuffy old blokes meeting for dinner once a week, modern service clubs could not be more different. The fundraising and community spirit are all still alive and well, but the clubs are now much more dynamic, and project based. Gone are the obligations to attend weekly meetings, or to be a certain demographic, and while the current members are getting older, an injection of “youth” will ensure the clubs remain viable into the future. Judy said Rotary is looking for people who can help get things done.
“Things get done outside of meetings, not in meetings”. Judy said modern family life means people with young families who are working full time probably do not have the time to give to service organisations.
“So we are looking at people whose kids have got to the point where they don’t need supervision all the time, the 40–60s, or early retirees, people with a bit of time up their sleeves,” she said. Rotary has many projects that it undertakes to help the community, members help run both the Warrandyte Riverside Market and the Tunstall Square Market, as well as the Rotary Art Show.
“We are a small group, but we are very dynamic — we are risk takers, we put our hand up to do things, even if they might sound a bit way out.
“We will try things if we think they are going to benefit people in the community,” she said. Judy said Rotary has adopted a new area of focus lately and are developing projects around environmental issues.
“Rotary is getting on board with a lot of environmental projects, and it is something I would like see our club getting involved with a bit more, particularly in Warrandyte because there are so many opportunities here,” she said.
Lions Club has been part of the Warrandyte Community for almost 50 years, it provides help and support to community members in times of need, through its Op Shop and providing emergency food or other staples, like school fees or clothes. Lions’ secretary, Lyn McDonald says that those doing the helping get a lot out of it too.
“What you get out of it is the boost of knowing that you are actually helping people, which is why I think anyone volunteers, they want to help people.
“But it is also good to know that someone who is invisible can be seen and be assisted, and that is where I worry, there are all these invisible people out there who don’t know who to ask for, don’t know how to ask.” Or when disaster strikes, Lions can jump in with practical assistance, like following the Black Saturday Fires, when the club took a tool library to Kinglake to assist the community to rebuild things like fencing. Lions also runs events during the year that are designed to both provide something for both their members and the broader community. The club also works with Doncaster All Abilities Basketball, the Warrandyte Riverside Market, Warrandyte Pottery Expo, and many other community projects that enhance our community. Once a year the Lions rev it up with a day at Sandown Raceway, giving vision impaired motorists a chance to get in the driver’s seat and do hot laps of the racetrack.
“It is such a boon to so many people and so many other clubs love it and get involved — there is a real buzz about it, people love it, we have people from all over and it has been really disappointing we haven’t been able to run that during COVID,” said Lyn. A major fundraising stream for the club is the Op Shop. Lyn said the Op Shop is not just an asset for the community, but also an asset for the people who work there.
“It is a social hub, and a lot of customers come in on a regular basis, you get to know them and they find it a nice social atmosphere too.” However, as the pandemic has kept some of their regular volunteers away, the Lions are facing a challenge keeping the club, and therefore the Op Shop viable.
“It would be a real shame if we had to fold, people have busy lives and so might not have the time to volunteer, if we could get a few people under 60 it would be wonderful, we have talked to other groups, it has been a major issue overhanging us for the last few years, it is just getting less and less and falling on fewer and fewer people.
“We find we are very useful, and we want to stay useful.” Dick Davies from the Warrandyte Community Association (WCA) is on the Warrandyte Riverside Market committee, and says it is a case of many hands make light work. But at the moment, it is falling to the same people to turn up month after month.
“It is a question of just getting enough new people in, and the more people you get the easier it is, because you are not relying on the same people all the time,” he said.
“Everyone enjoys the market, and it doesn’t just happen, a lot of people put a lot of effort into it.
“It would be very nice to have a list of people we could call on now and again, and not rely on the same people all of the time.” He said the market is always looking for people to help with set up and pack up.
“It is mainly to direct traffic and make sure the cars don’t block the pathway and the stall holders, facilitating the exit, and being friendly to people.” The Market is run by a collection of community groups, North Warrandyte CFA help with the setup, while Rotary, and the WCA help with the bump in and the Lions help with the pack-up. WCA is also involved in the Warrandyte Retirement Housing Co-Operative, which has built and now operates two small retirement villages in Warrandyte. Dick said the Co-Op was started many years ago by Valarie Polley and Cliff Green. It took several years to get all the ducks in a row and the first block of five units, Creekside, went in at Harris Gully Road in 2011, and Riverside was opened in West End Road in 2019. However, Dick said many of the founding members of the committee have passed away and so they are looking for assistance in a range of different areas.
“It is a question of getting a bit more assistance right across the board, we have a formal board and we do have vacancies for board members, people don’t have to be a board member they can help on a casual basis, give advice or assistance.
“We used to have a lawyer and a bank manager, but they have both passed away, but we had legal and financial expertise on the committee, Doug Seymour is on the committee, he is a retired council engineer so he is very good on that and Andrew Yen is a developer and he has done an enormous amount.
“My concern as chairman of the Retirement Housing Co-op, is these buildings are going to be around for another 50–100 years, it is run on a cooperative basis, so we have to keep it going.
“We could do with people with general board and accounting experience, people with nursing experience, people who know about old people — it is a community thing,” he said.
Doncare Op Shops in staffing crisis
Doncare has been predicated on volunteerism for over 50 years with volunteers providing support to vulnerable families through their work as Community Support Workers, Op shop workers, Social Support volunteers, Counsellors and mentors to women recovering from family violence. Doncare CEO, Gaby Thomson said volunteer numbers in the op shops are down 30 per cent.
“We are now faced with having to temporarily close stores because we cannot staff them.
“Doncare has already suffered significant losses in revenue due to the closure of stores due to restrictions in the past 12 months,” Gaby said. Doncare relies on the revenue of its seven opportunity shops to support women and children recovering from family violence, provide emergency relief to disadvantaged families, counselling, therapeutic support groups and provide recreational activities to socially isolated seniors in Warrandyte.
“We desperately need people to volunteer as retail shop assistants in Tunstall Square, Templestowe Village and Mitcham in particular,” she said. There are shifts available during the week or Saturdays from 9:15am–1pm and 1pm–4pm.

Christmas spirit flows in Warrandyte

Christmas good cheer was flowing as staff and volunteers at Warrandyte business, Now and Not Yet, opened its doors on Christmas day, so that no one had to spend Christmas alone.

 Café owner Derek Bradshaw was overwhelmed with offers of assistance from near and far as he provided free meals and company people who would otherwise have had a meagre meal alone.

“We shut it off at thirty as we had so many people volunteering… we had 100 customers last year, they seem to come in busloads as they come in from Ringwood,” he said.

“We had many locals who had lost family and didn’t have family to go to – one guy said to me this was great, I would have got a meal out of the freezer and sat by myself, so it’s good to come and have some people to be with,” said Mr Bradshaw .

From cooking, to waiting on tables or just lending a friendly ear, volunteers were enthusiastic in their duties.

One volunteer, Sammy, came all the way from Dandenong to help out and was just as eager to work behind the scenes as well as simply to be there for people in need.

“I want to come along and see amazing people with smiling faces and genuinely happy people – but I am happy to lend my hand in any way I can,” he said.

“We’ve had a great Christmas, but it’s not great for everybody, if we can make it a bit better, that’s great,” said another volunteer.

There were many locals who have been supported by Now and Not Yet in the past who were keen to give back to the café.

Local artist Andrea Glueck has used the café’s art space to work.

“It is such an amazing place I wanted to help Derek out, as he is so generous,” she said.

Support came from across Warrandyte, as The Rotary Club and local traders chipped in with donations.

Gardiner McGuinness put on a sausage sizzle that raised $700, which they turned into IGA vouchers, Pines Learning donated 38 handbags filled with women’s essentials collected from the local community, and all of the food for the day was donated by the café’s suppliers.

The diners were very grateful of the opportunity to feel connected to the community, as one woman told of her isolation that comes with separation from your loved ones.

“It’s nice to socialise with other people on a special day rather than sitting at home by yourself,” she said.

Mr Bradshaw said that with all the doom and gloom in the world, people are interested in what the true spirit of Christmas is about.

“It’s Warrandyte really isn’t it, it’s why I love Warrandyte, it’s such a good community,” he said.

For more on this and other Christmas adventures, see the February edition of the Warrandyte Diary.

Wild about our animals

THE towering Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 killed 173 people and led to an outpouring of grief among Australians.

But for Wonga Park firefighter Adrian Trigt, they had special meaning that added to the tragedy.

“I visited Kinglake after Black Saturday and the place looked like a warzone,” Mr Trigt said. “I opened an email from Wildlife Victoria and I saw that they needed more wildlife rescuers and so I jumped on board because saving wildlife is important: it does make a difference.”

Mr Trigt has since devoted his time to rescuing and transporting injured kangaroos to wildlife shelters for rehabilitation.

His work is highly specialised, with few people trained in how to rescue kangaroos.

It’s difficult to find volunteers who are willing to regularly spend several hours attempting to save an injured kangaroo, let alone buy the expensive equipment needed to rescue such large and speedy animals.

Car accidents are one of the leading causes of death for native animals such as kangaroos and much of Adrian’s work involves removing dead roos from roads and marking them with a white “X” so passersby know a rescuer has already attended.

“Unfortunately, most animals don’t usually survive car accidents,” Mr Trigt said. “If a kangaroo is lying there with two broken legs and it’s dying, I want to help put the animal out of its misery. You can’t just leave an animal there to suffer.”

Unfortunately, that’s how the overwhelming majority of wildlife injuries end.

Wildlife Victoria, a non-profit emergency response service for wildlife, sent volunteers to help injured animals on about 40,000 call outs last year.

The organisation’s relationship manager, Amy Amato, estimates 80 to 90 per cent of cases resulted in the animal being put down or dying before volunteers arrived at the scene.

“It’s pretty hard on our volunteers and sometimes they go weeks without being able to rescue a single animal,” Ms Amato says. “That’s when our job becomes about ending the animal’s suffering. Nearly every wildlife death or injury is directly or indirectly human-related, whether it’s a road accident, a kangaroo caught on a fence, a pet attack or a bird that has ingested plastic and needs surgery.”

Those animals with a chance of survival end up in the care of one of the organisation’s 500 active wildlife carers, such as Wonga Park’s Adriana Simmonds, who is a biologist and environmental educator from Columbia.

She has nursed around 2000 native Australian animals back to health and released them into the wild over the past 15 years.

Her immense love for Australia’s wildlife is evident to those around her, who haven’t seen her take a proper holiday in 15 years because her shelter always has animals needing her care.

Hello possum: Adriana Simmonds is passionate about her animal rescue work.

Running her wildlife shelter from her home is a 24-hour job, with baby animals requiring feeding throughout the night. It can also be heartbreaking work – sometimes all she can do is ease their suffering as they die from horrific injuries.

Yet Mrs Simmonds says she wouldn’t have her life any other way.

“You sacrifice yourself and at the end of the day you let them go and it’s like you’re letting go of your own child. It’s pure love,” she said.

“When they’re babies I’m a mum to them – I’m affectionate, I kiss them and hug them but as they start growing up I start the process of detachment. When I release them into the wild they are completely dehumanised so they don’t remember me. They need to be completely wild to survive on their own.”

During spring and summer, carers face an influx of orphaned babies, whose mothers have often been hit by cars as they migrate or they’re often attacked by cats whose owners don’t keep them indoors at night.

Mrs Simmonds says global warming is also making natural events such as bushfires more extreme and deadly for wildlife. But she says cutting down forests to make way for developments such as roads and houses have the greatest impact on wildlife, affecting the entire ecosystem.

“You’re limiting their source of food and shelter and the rate at which we destroy is never the same as the rate at which we restore habitat,” Mrs Simmonds said.

“Then animals can die trying to find other shelter. People often view possums in their roofs as pests and yet those possums are there because the trees they would usually live in have been cut down, but people don’t often make the connection.”

Wildlife advocates say many wildlife deaths could be prevented if the Victorian government established more wildlife corridors so native animals could migrate safely through Melbourne’s outer-suburbs such as Warrandyte and Wonga Park.

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning spokesman Ewan Cook says a guide for wildlife corridors is being developed, which will be followed by a plan.

Meanwhile, Mrs Simmonds is busy looking after the animals in her care and visiting schools and community groups with her business Human Seeds, which educates people on wildlife issues while helping her fund the costs of running her shelter.

“I truly believe education is the only hope we have for the future and I teach people how to incorporate simple changes into their daily lives, which make a big difference to our wildlife,” she said.

“Probably the best thing people can do is plant native vegetation in their backyards – that way people are creating their own wildlife corridors.”

To report injured wildlife, call Wildlife Victoria on 1300 094 535 or visit www.wildlifevictoria.org.au