When Leanne lost her husband of 43 years and her job of 15 years in the space of a couple of years, she never dreamed that some of her best times still lay ahead.
But the 64-year-old from Sandstone Point is now filling her days doing what she loves most – driving and meeting new people.
This National Volunteer Week (15-21 May) Centacare is celebrating its 170 volunteers, who generously give their skills, talents and time to ensure that people are not just cared for but cared about in the ways that matter to them.
Leanne is one of 18 volunteers the Moreton Bay area that drive Centacare aged care and disability care clients where they need to be.
She volunteers two days per week. On Thursday she does the shopping run. Starting out at 8.30am, Leanne picks six ladies up from their homes and drops them at Morayfield Shopping Centre. She has a short break in the middle of the day before running them home again.
But Leanne is much more than a driver.
“We are very close,” said Leanne. “They tell me what’s happening in their lives and I’m a listening ear for them. I know one lady is having surgery on her hand, so I won’t be seeing her tomorrow.
“Most of the ladies are quite isolated. Sometimes the conversations we have will be the only ones they have that week. When one lady lost her grand daughter, she told me that I was the last person she had to tell. That made me feel very special.”
Leanne worked as a receptionist at IBM until she was laid off during COVID. She looked for a volunteer position to meet the requirements for Newstart Allowance and felt very fortunate when she saw the advertisement for volunteer bus drivers on Facebook. Driving was a favourite pastime of Leanne’s.
“Driving is something I did with my late husband, Dennis,” said Leanne. “We would take off to the country and drive for hours.”
Leanne said she loves the sense of camaraderie that comes from working with the team at Moreton Bay. She has made good friends with another volunteer – Linda, who provides administrative assistance.
“Linda and I work together to plan the fortnightly social outings for the aged care clients,” said Leanne.
“We take large groups of up to 20 clients, sometimes in two busses, to all sorts of places. We go to the Ginger Factory, gardening centre and op shops. We always make sure we go somewhere that we can get a nice meal. Sometimes it’s the only good, hot meal they will have in the week.
“The clients love having the opportunity to have a drink and relax among friends,” said Leanne. “We’ve built a real sense of community. I’m a bit of a joker and I know the ones I can have a bit of fun with. They really enjoy having someone to have a laugh with.”
If you have a passion to make a difference in the lives of others and our communities more broadly, volunteering with Centacare could be for you.