Two grandparents who have dedicated more than half a century to brightening the lives of others say giving back is the key to staying fulfilled.
Kevin Dooley, aged 80, and Colleen White, aged 74, will soon celebrate 25 years and 30 years respectively of volunteering with not-for-profit organisation Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH).
Musician Kevin can be found twice-weekly at VMCH’s John R Hannah aged care residence in Mulgrave, providing compositions for Mass on Wednesdays and lively piano for sing-alongs with 71 residents on Thursday afternoons.
“I like to play songs of their era and youth like ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ or ‘I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen’,” said Kevin, a former Music Master at Xavier Junior College.
“You might find some of the residents who wouldn’t normally speak or perhaps sit there quietly start mouthing the words and tapping their feet when the piano starts up. It makes them happy. They enjoy the singing and the fact that they’re enjoying it – that’s all that matters to me.”
Kevin said he’d continue volunteering “until his fingers give it away”.
“When you’re quite well yourself and you’ve had a pretty good life, it’s good to give something back.”
Colleen, of Glen Waverley, spends Wednesdays at VMCH’s White Road Activity and Respite Service in Wantirna South, supporting seniors have an acquired physical disability, a visual or physical impairment, who have dementia, or who are frail aged.
Undertaking quizzes, calling bingo and helping with art and crafts are just some of her roles.
“I just love the people,” the grandmother-of-six said. “Someone said to me a few years ago, ‘You’re so generous with your time’ and I said ‘no I’m not’, because honestly I get so much out of it. I call them (clients) my friends because that’s what they are. What I’ve got out of my 30 years of volunteering has given me a really full life.”
Lynne Cahir, White Road Lifestyle and Respite Coordinator, said the feeling was mutual.
“Colleen is a happy, fun loving person, always willing to give of herself and to share her wisdom with others. She is much-loved by staff, fellow volunteers and all who attend the centre.”
Kevin and Colleen were among around 300 VMCH volunteers celebrated as part of National Volunteer Week (9-15 May) at a special high tea at the Plaza Ballroom on May 11.
VMCH Volunteer Services Manager Bronwyn Summers said the event was a way to show the organisation’s 500-plus volunteers – some who have dedicated more than 50 years – how much they are appreciated.
“Without the commitment and generosity of these volunteers, the lives of the people we support would be much the poorer,” Bronwyn said. “By giving their precious time through social visits, arts and crafts, music, education, transport and retail support, to name a few, they are truly helping to make a positive difference to those in need.”
Click here to find out more about volunteering with VMCH.