The 350 volunteers at South West Healthcare are being recognised as integral members of the organisation's staff.
Despite not being able to celebrate their contribution with the usual festivities due to the coronavirus pandemic, volunteer services coordinator Julie Evans is proud to shine a light on the hospital's self-sacrificing members.
"We have a broad range of volunteers from all backgrounds and about 94 per cent of them are over 65-years-old," she said.
"We had to stand down all our volunteers except for 18 in Warrnambool and now we are down to four.
"There's a big void in a lot of areas in the hospitals and out in the community.
"It's a grand loss for our vulnerable people.
They support staff behind-the-scenes and there's not many places our volunteers don't have an input in.Julie Evans
The hospital's volunteers span from 21 to 93-years-old across all campuses including Macarthur, Lismore and Camperdown, in roles from transport to hand and foot massage.
Community palliative care clinical coordinator Andrea Janes said the excellent retention of volunteers was attributed to the organisation treating them as part of the staff.
"We have 103 in palliative care alone," she said.
"We rely on volunteers to provide a level of support. They're an amazing workforce in their own right.
"It's amazing to see the relationships that form through volunteering. It's totally unique to health professionals and patients."
Olive McKenzie and Layla McMahon
Olive McKenzie and Layla McMahon are on different ends of the volunteer spectrum.
Mrs McKenzie recently retired from volunteering at South West Healthcare after 25 years working in palliative care, doing hand and foot massaging and one-on-one sessions.
"There were a few volunteers before me, back then they only did training every two years but now it's really grown," she said.
"When I started we did a lot of fundraising and working in the office of the palliative care staff doing paperwork and photocopying and helping the district nurse
"I hope the program keeps going forever, it's really wonderful and the people are marvellous. The coordinators are wonderful. Some of us don't have mobile phones or email and they always get the rosters to us and sort us out.
"I did a lot of the one-on-one care with palliative care people and going out to their homes.
I gave breakfast to a woman three mornings a week and we had the greatest fun.Olive McKenzie
Mrs McMahon joined the volunteer team as soon as she became employed by South West Healthcare in administration and is training to work in palliative care.
"I always wanted to volunteer and Warrnambool had the opportunity for me," she said.
"As soon as I got the job, I told Julie the same day as soon as I knew the days I would be available.
"I see what it's like from a work perspective and they're part of the team as well. I think it's a good place and the volunteers are appreciated by the staff.
"It's exciting to expand your kin."
Business owner John Dwyer originally thought he'd give up five minutes of his time to volunteer reading at South West Healthcare.
Today, he volunteers around two hours a week in the award-winning Brain Activities, Stimulation and Engagement program and is in awe of Ms Evans' work organising the cohort.
"I work on the four wards giving out reading material," Mr Dwyer said.
You don't realise there's so much to learn on the medical side of things as well.John Dwyer
"When I arrive I get my name tag, log in and prepare as all the patients have different needs.
"Sometimes I read magazines or books, other times I give the kids toys which have all been handmade by other volunteers.
"A lot of patients don't have visitors and I find that especially with men. But when they see another man they seem to start talking and the nurses tell me that's they best they've seen that patient. It's very gratifying to know you're making a difference and brightening someone's day.
"Julie was so supportive and helpful. I admire and take my hat off to her.
"Most of us can't make our kids make their beds in the morning and Julie has 350 of us and she gets in contact to organise us all. She's a guardian angel, we're very lucky to have her."
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