Tell us a little about where you volunteer?

I volunteer at MiRa (Marysville Information and Regional Arts) which is located strategically in the main street of Marysville. We provide local information, town and walking trail maps, guides to local businesses and a wide range of tourist brochures and maps for areas east and north of Melbourne. There are large gallery spaces with regularly updated exhibitions, and the retail space has a wide ranging array of art, gifts for all ages, cards, jewellery and much more. MiRa is also used for Art workshops, music and theatre events, meetings and has rooms for hire.

At the Tuesday Chat group I help set up and serve tea and coffee and sweet treats, then either chat to the participants or join in a game of Scrabble.
As a Gym monitor, I check in members as they arrive, ensure that everyone has what they need in terms of equipment and pack up the equipment at the end of the session.
On the U3A Committee I organise monthly outings to a range of different places: gardens, galleries, events etc.

How did you get into volunteering?

My residence here started as a holiday house, and I did small amounts of volunteering at MiRa during school holidays. When I retired a few years ago, and took up permanent residence, I became more involved with both MiRa and the Triangle Arts Group, where I am Secretary. I joined Murrindindi East U3A several years ago where I both participate and contribute with classes and on the Committee. Also in Marysville, I started at the Tuesday Chat group for older residents last year and also recently started volunteering as a Gym monitor.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

At MiRa, I really enjoy the range of people I meet and it gives me a great deal of pleasure making them feel welcome, and helping them to enjoy their time in Marysville. They are always appreciative of the time I spend with them, and the information I impart. The Centre is a wonderful place to work, with supportive and friendly staff who make us feel an inherent part of the team. It is always enjoyable having locals drop in for a chat, and a number of the UGFM presenters are also in the building. Because it is such a visually appealing environment, any 'down time' is spent enjoying the art or looking at new products in the retail space. I choose to not have a regular slot, so if I have other things going on, it's ok if I can't be there. If I'm not busy, I offer to take on extra days, or fill in for others who can't do their shift.
The Tuesday Chat is a relaxed time spent with residents I don't otherwise see often.
Being a Gym monitor encourages me to go and do my own program!

Is there anything you find challenging about volunteering?

When I first started at MiRa, I was nervous about the Point of Sale, as I had never worked in retail, but the staff were very supportive and rescued me if things went wrong. They still have to do that occasionally! I do find that having to wear a mask, because we are a retail space, makes it hard at times when I am trying to impart information.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering?

Do it! Go into various places that use volunteers and spend a bit of time watching them, or ask them about what they do. Find something that you enjoy - it might be helping elderly residents with shopping or gardening, reading to children or helping them with homework, assisting in a community-run place. Lions and Rotary are always looking for members and they do an amazing job in the community. Look in your local paper for community groups - there are so many: from Op-shops to Historical Societies, Community Houses and Co-ops, service groups. It doesn't have to be a huge commitment - a couple of hours delivering Meals on Wheels makes a huge difference to many people. The pleasure that comes from helping others is a very precious feeling. We are lucky to live in our small communities where we can both give to and access care from those around us.