A hug for the volunteers

Hats off to you: UnitingCare volunteers (front, from left) Alan and Jill Southon, and Prasanthi Dona. At back are Marion Lawrence and Michael Woolner. Picture: Michael CoppALAN Southon knows what it’s like to give a helping hand to people in need.

Along with wife Jill, he’s a volunteer at UnitingCare Sunshine and Broadmeadows (a single agency).

The couple volunteer every Thursday in Broadmeadows to help stock and organise the pantry used for emergency relief.

They were among 200 volunteers who were recognised at an Olympic-theme lunch last week.

UnitingCare provides children’s and family services, financial counselling and emergency relief.

Mr Southon, 73, says it’s a rewarding role.

“You can see the results. The volunteer gets more out of it by being here, by being part of it,” he says.

“The need in the community for emergency food relief is increasing – anyone can see that.

“We just like coming over here. You feel that you’re needed.”

Mr Southon has been a volunteer for four years and his wife for 16 years.

He says the social aspect of volunteering is a bonus.

“That’s one of the best things about being a volunteer; you have time to talk to people. You do make friends. We don’t get to see the clients, but from a volunteer’s perspective we get to talk to everyone in the building.”

The lunch was held to thank volunteers across the organisation’s bargain centres, Broadmeadows and Sunshine sites, Kids Unplugged and the Asylum Seeker Welcome Centre.

The agency’s chief executive, Joy Nunn, said the annual event “gives us the opportunity to thank our volunteers for giving back”.

“It also allows us to acknowledge the efforts of those staff involved in attracting, retaining and liaising with our volunteers.”