San volunteers making a world of difference

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Long-serving San volunteers Felicity Gerard-Helps (left) and Rosemary Taylor.

Felicity Gerard-Helps has dedicated the past 30 years to helping others through her volunteer work at Sydney Adventist Hospital.

Felicity is one of the more than 500 San volunteers being recognised this week as part of hospital-wide celebrations for National Volunteer Week.

Felicity spends four hours every Friday at the San, helping patients to accomplish various tasks. She has been a member of the San Help Team since 1989.

“After my son went to school, I decided to start volunteering,” she explained. “Initially I was one of the ‘pink ladies’ before we changed to yellow shirts. Thirty years on I’m still here. I’ve made great friends and it’s really a beautiful community. I’ve never thought of doing anything else.”

Fellow San volunteer and Felicity’s good friend, Rosemary Taylor, also joined the team in 1989.

“I started volunteering at the San after my mother-in-law was treated here,” Rosemary said. “I’d grown up with the philosophy of giving back to the community, but I’ve definitely received more than I’ve given. If I walk out of each individual patient’s room and they have a smile on their face, then I know I have helped. I’ll keep volunteering as long as I can.”

San Help Team manager Patrina McLean said National Volunteers Week is a time to celebrate at the San. In addition to Felicity and Rosemary, 40 other Help Team members are also being recognised for their 10, 15 and 20 years of service milestones at an awards ceremony.

"I've made great friends and it's really a beautiful community. I've never thought of doing anything else."

Volunteers are aged anywhere between 16 and 94, and range from stay-at-home mums to retired chief executives. They help with a diverse range of tasks, including chatting with patients, helping the wards with their stock, running errands, greeting visitors, helping with meals, guiding therapy dogs to long-term patients who miss their own pets, and helping in the volunteer snack bar.

“The ways they have supported us are as wide as their wide skill sets, backgrounds and their reasons for volunteering,” Mrs McLean said. “Quite a few of them have been here for more than 30 years. Clearly they enjoy what they do and are engaged at the San in making a difference, which is why they keep coming back every week . . . and we love them. Our volunteers make the San a very special place.”

Since the San Help Team was first established in 1973, over 1800 volunteers have donated more than 1.57 million hours of their time. Each year, San volunteers work the equivalent of 58,000 hours, and are among the 6 million Australian volunteers donating close to 932 million work hours to Australian businesses and charities.