Coretta Scott King once said, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” By that measure Bolton Clarke’s Cazna Gardens, at Sunnybank Hills in Brisbane, is on the path to greatness, as measured by the actions of residents like Patricia Toohey.
Patricia, who lives in the Cazna Gardens retirement village with husband Des, has dedicated her life to supporting her local community and advocating for its continuous improvement.
“I never thought I would become this involved in volunteering, you just see a need in your community and you help out where you can,” she says.
For the longtime volunteer, seeing a problem has usually meant being actively involved in a solution. As a young mother who had recently moved to Sunnybank in 1966she found herself feeling isolated and yearning to meet women in similar situations.
She began working with her local church where she set up a mother’s group allowing women with young children to meet and participate in activities together such as arts and crafts.
“We also initiated a babysitting program based on points where members would mind each other’s children in exchange for babysitting hours rather than money, “she says.
‘This was very helpful to parents who needed to go out but couldn’t afford a babysitting service.”
Pat became president of the mothers group and eventually branched out to the Lady of Lourdes school where she started a family’s Friendship Group organising cooking demonstrations, bus trips and sharing healthcare information between local GP’s and parents.
After her time working with mother’s groups Pat decided to continue supporting families by setting up a Neighbourhood Watch in 1990 to prevent crime and promote closer community ties., The group ran successfully for 28 years.
“Through the Neighbourhood Watch program I created a Welcome Wagon booklet that we would give out to new members of the community – this contained local contact information, health care providers, schools, this was how we lived before Google,” she laughs.
From here Pat became interested in bushland conservation and signed up for Habitat Brisbane, working on the preservation of waterways, stopping the impact of erosion and planting trees in greenspaces around Sunnybank.
She has also supported countless charitable organisations including Meals on Wheels, Clean Up Australia Day, Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea, MS Australia, Keep Australia Beautiful and countless others.