Volunteers are a key part of these two organisations

Elvie Cave and her companion Honey and RSPCA Volunteer Georgina Culverson and Honey

National Volunteer Week is Australia’s largest annual celebration of volunteers, acknowledging and thanking the significant contribution of Australia’s almost six million volunteers.

At the RSPCA alone, there are 2,924 volunteers that hold a critical role in helping thousands of animals get the care, love and protection they need.

Over the past 12 months, RSPCA NSW volunteers have contributed to an incredible 220,000 plus hours of their time to helping animals.

Georgina Culverson is one of those volunteers and has been involved with the RSPCA Aged Care Community Program, which helps to keep pets with their loving elderly owners together, and improves the quality of life for the pets by keeping them in their comfortable home.

She has been helping 86-year-old Elvie Cave and her little dog honey from Budgewoi since October 2020.

Together they walk Honey for an hour, three times a week, and they even catch up for a nice chat on Saturday mornings after their walk.

“I work at Mingara, and there, they are a very community conscious company, and I was really inspired by a co-worker who was doing Telecross for the Australia Red Cross, so I joined too.

“I stumbled across the RSPCA Aged Care Community Program on their website as I am a regular donor, so I did an online induction, and I was matched up with Elvie.

“I really enjoy working one on one with people and it has been really great helping out Elvie, there’s a nice waterfront down near the retirement village where honey and I walk along.

“It’s a nice way to start my day, it’s something I’m doing every week and it is very fulfilling,” Culverson said.

“I was first involved with this program in Penrith, I’m now 86, and I have some issues walking now due to a bad back, so I find it difficult to walk my dog,” Elvie Cave said.

“I am very appreciative of Georgina coming and walking Honey, she is very responsible and committed to her volunteer work and Honey is always very excited to see Georgina.

“Honey loves to run, and when Georgina is walking her it is full steam ahead.

“Honey is a very happy little dog and she is a marvelous little companion,” Cave said.

The RSPCA Aged Care Community Program is an initiative to assist pet owners over the age of 65, or Indigenous pet owners over 50 as well of palliative care patients of any age.

The program offers services such as temporary foster accommodation and emergency pet boarding and respite.

Other services include assistance with veterinary treatment, home visits to assist with basic pet care and grooming, and assistance to transport to and from a veterinarian clinic.

It also offers the chance for people who would not normally meet under normal circumstances, something that both Culverson and Cave are very thankful for.

“Elvie has had an interesting life and we have discussions about all kinds of things.

“I certainly think that a real friendship has bloomed from this,” Culverson said.

“I’m just thrilled that there is a service like this for people who cannot walk their dogs anymore, and I definitely consider Georgina a real friend,” Cave said.

Another organisation celebrating National Volunteer’s Week is Orange Sky, a non-profit organisation providing free mobile laundry and shower services to people doing it tough.

Orange Sky was established on the Coast in 2014 by Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett to help some of the 116,000 homeless people around Australia.

Currently, the organisation has 2,000 volunteers who enable the organisation to alleviate some of the hardship faced by people experiencing homelessness.

Since launching the service, they have provided 1.4 million tonnes of laundry and over 200,000 hours of assisting people.

“National volunteer week is not only a chance to celebrate the contribution of volunteers to the organisation, but it is a key opportunity to call out for more volunteers across the Central Coast after a particularly challenging year with the pandemic.

“Since our first van hit the road on the Central Coast in 2017, our amazing volunteers have helped us to provide 4,715 washes across 1,183 shifts,” said Orange Sky’s Project Manager, Daniel Glaubert.

“Recent events have reminded us of the importance of our volunteers and their contribution to our work.

“In March 2020, the pandemic saw us pause our operations where we went from 1,800 to zero volunteers overnight.

“We are really reaching out to the community to attract more people to our cause as we build back up.

“Our volunteers have been and will remain an integral part of our work before and after the pandemic.

“Volunteers provide us with the kind of things that we can’t put a dollar figure on, positively connecting communities.

“50 extra volunteers across the Central Coast would assist us in delivering a further eight shifts at priority areas in the community.

“This year, more than ever, we say thank you and encourage interested members of the Central Coast community to get on board this important cause,’ Glaubert said.

Harry Mulholland