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Kirribilli Neighbourhood Centre Providing a helping hand

Think Local

As a society, it’s hard to imagine how we would survive without our volunteers.

From Meals on Wheels, charity stores, aged care,Bushcare, youth services, community visitor schemes and respite services, our volunteers are essential to the smooth functioning of our community.

A recent survey by the Centre for Volunteering reveals almost one in four people in NSW and the ACT were helped by a volunteer over the past 12 months, with parents and young people benefiting the most.

A staggering 1.3 million people were helped by dedicated volunteers around the state.

The centre says the survey only measured a "snapshot of people helped by other people”, and say if they had counted volunteers who worked in the environment, the arts and with animal charities, the numbers would be much higher.

For nearly 40 years, Kirribilli Neighbourhood Centre has been a focus for community activities, with a heavy reliance on volunteers to drive outcomes and programs at the centre.

The centre occupies two restored old stone houses in the heart of Kirribilli. They were built in 1876 and acquired by North Sydney Council in 1974, with the modern-day centre opening in 1976.

The facility caters for health and fitness activities, creative and performing arts, family and children support groups, book clubs, plus more.

Centre volunteer Gretel Jones is part of a dedicated group of people who enable the facility's many activities and services to run smoothly.

"I usually spend about three hours a fortnight here managing the centre's library, but sometimes it can be more,” she tells North Shore Living.

"Since I retired, it's been very important to do something for the community and other people.

"I think as volunteers, we get so much more out of our work than many people who are paid.

"It’s a lovely atmosphere here for the volunteers and everyone appreciates us. The garden is very popular and a great space for parents and children.”

Centre general manager Coral Garratt, who has been at Kirribilli for the past six years, says the volunteers do a myriad of activities and she has many people calling to see if they can help.

"Of course we always need more volunteers," she says. "We are open seven days a week, so we need people on weekends as well.

Plus, we only get a small amount of government funding, with the council looking after the upkeep of the building.”

Three years ago, a council survey showed about 700 people passing through the centre during a one week period and another survey is due to be undertaken this year.

"We have a very wide age group of people coming here. We have sessions for mothers experiencing post natal depression and we operate a childcare centre,” reveals Ms Garratt.

"Also, the Kirribilli cafe, which we run on a Friday, is hugely popular and helps bring lots of locals into the centre.”

Centre events and marketing manager Jo Harvey, who started as a volunteer, says she fell in love with the centre and really wanted to get more involved with all the activities.

“People say they don't know what they would do without it," she comments. “We just could not keep the place operating without the wonderful contribution our volunteers make.”

Mosman Council recently held a special function to celebrate the work of the many volunteers. Speaking at the event deputy mayor Roy Bendall said the area continued to achieve high levels of volunteering, with the last census recording 23 per cent of the Mosman community involved.

"As Winston Churchill famously said, ’Volunteers are not paid because they are worthless. but because they are priceless. We make a living by what we get. but we make a life by what we give, Cr Bendall noted.

"Currently, Mosman has more than 350 active volunteers delivering a range of services in the area.”

For Mosman resident Mary Ross, volunteering has been the perfect way to reconnect with the community and provide valuable assistance at the same time. She has been involved with the community restaurant and community transport for the past five years and considers herself to be one of the newer volunteers.

“There are many people who have been involved for a lot longer ’ than I have,” she smiles.

"[Volunteering] keeps me busy and has been the best post- retirement activity. It's so rewarding and people really appreciate what you are doing. People should know that volunteering really makes you feel good."

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