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Volunteering purpose helps Mary tackle loneliness

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Mary has been volunteering at Bolton Clarke’s Darlington residential aged care community for nearly two years, and says in some ways it’s almost like coming home.

Having worked in the aged care industry in Hervey Bay for several years in the kitchen, dining room and as a cleaner, she missed the connection after moving to the Gold Coast and taking up different work.

“I always enjoyed working in aged care and I did miss it. When I saw the volunteer position advertised at Darlington it was the first one I went for,” she said.

“I knew I would love it and I have loved it ever since. I still volunteer now, even though I don’t have to. I’m retired but I like to go down and do a what I can.”

For Mary, volunteering is all about the residents - whether it’s sitting down to have a chat, doing the ladies’ nails, cutting the men’s hair, or putting on activities like high tea, carpet bowls or bingo, her days spent at Darlington are always busy.  

“I love seeing the residents every time I walk in - they always have a smile for me, and it makes their day if I do something for them.

“You don’t realise what a big difference a little thing can make. Even just sitting and talking to somebody - it might only be 15 minutes to me but it’s such a big thing to them and they can’t thank you enough.

“You hear a lot of stories from residents about the wartime. I love listening to all the history and what they went through. I get a lot out of that myself - I could sit there for hours and listen to them.”

The social connection of volunteering is what really connects Mary to her role.

“When my husband passed away, I started volunteering because of course, you get lonely,” Mary explains.

“We had been together 40-odd years and I thought, what am I going to do? Without a doubt, the residents have helped me the way I feel I have helped them.

“When I moved after my husband passed, I moved somewhere I had never lived. I had no friends - it was just me and my brother and that was it. Now I’ve got friends, a whole community of them - you walk into Darlington, and they are all there.”

For anyone who has been thinking about volunteering, Mary says: “What are you waiting for? With so much to learn from the older generation, all it takes is patience and love for the people. It’s not just the residents that get the benefit, you get the benefit from giving back -and seeing them light up it’s just so rewarding. Give it a try and see what you can learn about yourself!”

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