I guess volunteering is in my genes. My dad Max Gilmore was a volunteer with Christadelphian Aged Care for more than 70 years and the way he gave so much of himself to help others made him a real model for me.
I have been married for 44 years and have three adult children and two grandchildren. I retired in 2018 from employment with Pfizer Consumer Healthcare. Pfizer has a strong commitment to supporting charities and other non-profits organisations. One of my jobs was to organise a volunteering effort nationally for our employees. Being a Christadelphian, I chose Christadelphian Aged Care. For several years, we had annual visits to Southhaven, Casa Mia and Ashburn House in Sydney, Maranatha in Brisbane, Olivet in Melbourne and Bethsalem in Adelaide. As we were given four volunteering days a year, I was able to split my days and volunteer on a regular basis in the kiosk at Southhaven, providing residents with snacks, toiletries etc. as many were unable to purchase these elsewhere.
After I retired and found myself with a little more spare time, I started volunteering regularly at Southhaven in Padstow Heights, where my mum was then a resident, assisting in Ernie’s Cafe. I loved interacting with staff, residents and visitors, and learned how to make a half-decent cappuccino! In particular, getting to know the residents at the regular Coffee Clubs was a real highlight of the week.
Then COVID hit in 2020 and life as we know it altered dramatically for so many people, especially those who live in aged care. The cafe and hairdressing salon were closed, and visits were severely restricted by the end of March.
But, by mid-June, I was back volunteering, this time in the newly re-opened hairdressing salon with new hairdresser Suzanne. Raising my voice to the hearing-impaired through a mask and smiling with your eyes was the order of the day. To the residents, many of whom were badly in need of a good haircut by this stage, the re-opening was a godsend. For myself, it was an absolute delight to renew the acquaintance of our Coffee Club ladies, and to see the excitement of the female residents as I escorted them to the salon for the first time in months. Some even wept with joy at the prospect. And returning them to the activities area or dining room and seeing them soaking up the attention and admiring comments from other residents and staff on their ‘hairdos’ was a real buzz.
After another lockdown period mid-year, we were back on deck in early September and again providing this essential service to the residents. But it’s not just about providing a service – it’s the
social interaction for both volunteers and residents. Many older members of our community have so much to offer – their wit, wisdom, and interesting early lives. Some of the stories they tell would curl your hair (pun intended).
Volunteering is such a rewarding thing to do – I feel very privileged to spend time with the residents and caring staff. When returning from a week away on holidays recently, I was greeted by several of
the ladies with a “we missed you” – that’s what it’s all about!