Two western Sydney women have clocked up more than a quarter of a century each as volunteers for a CatholicCare program that provides support for elderly people living in their own homes. Source: Catholic Outlook.
As volunteers for Blacktown Neighbour Aid, Bernadette McKay and Rose Bililis have been visiting elderly clients for 26 years and 25 years respectively and say their volunteering has enriched their lives and provided good friendships.
“You start out as a volunteer with these people, but you often end up part of the family,” Ms Bililis said.
Ms McKay said she learned about the value of volunteering from her parents.
“I watched my parents do this sort of thing, with Meals on Wheels and Vinnies, and Mum did a lot for the Church. People used to volunteer a lot more back then.”
A story in the local paper calling for more volunteers for Blacktown Neighbour Aid caught Ms McKay’s eye back in the early 1990s, and, despite having retired early due to bulging discs in her spine, she though, “I could do that”.
Her first client was a woman with brain damage, who Ms McKay used to visit at her home and accompany on outings. Later, there was a woman with whom she met twice a week for about 15 years until the woman went into a nursing home.
“It’s just been an absolute joy, the whole lot. I would do it again in a flash and I’d encourage anyone else to come and join us as a volunteer,” says McKay.
Ms Bililis said she also took her inspiration to volunteer from her mother.
“My mother used to say that all of us belong under the same umbrella. It doesn’t matter about religion or nationality, we all bleed the same coloured blood and all of us have to help each other.”
“It makes me happy from the bottom of my heart to help someone and you learn a lot. It’s been enriching,” she said.
The women say that apart from the friends they have made with clients, they have also forged a strong friendship together through their time at Blacktown Neighbour Aid.
Blacktown Neighbour Aid Manager Deb Woolacott says long-standing volunteers are worth their weight in gold and more volunteers are needed all the time.
“We couldn’t serve as many clients as we do without the help of volunteers,” she says.
“You start as a volunteer but end up part of the family” (Catholic Outlook)