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Jenny’s service recognised

Retirement Living Giving Back Connectedness Community Volunteer

A message to someone thinking of volunteering

“Give it a try and just find something that you love that interests you as a person. That way you are likely to stick with it. You meet people and get to make good use of your skills.”

Jenny Bradford – IRT Volunteer

30 April 2021
Jenny Bradford was named Senior Volunteer of the Year at the Volunteering ACT 2020 Volunteering Awards, Canberra region.

Volunteering has always been a big part of Jenny Bradford’s life and last year the IRT Kangara Waters resident was named Senior Volunteer of Year at the Volunteering ACT 2020 Volunteering Awards, Canberra region.

“Our volunteer coordinator Suzanne [Gearing] asked if she could put my name forward for an award,” Jenny says.

What Jenny didn’t realise was that she was then in the running for a Canberra region award.

“That really was a surprise,” Jenny says.

The awards were streamed live in September but unfortunately Jenny missed her name being announced. However she now has the trophy recognising her award win.

Jenny at her stall at the IRT Kangara Waters Christmas Market, which she established a decade ago.

Jenny and her husband Don have lived at IRT Kangara Waters for more than 11 years and were among the first residents to move into the retirement village. “I organised a lunch for the people who moved in during the first week and have been organising it every year since,” she explains. “There’s about 11 of the original 14 left.”

When Jenny and Don moved in they had no immediate family living close by – with their three boys and their families living interstate.

“Kangara Waters became my saviour in some ways and the community needed someone to step up and organise a few get-togethers and I suppose I’m that type of person,” Jenny says.

Jenny, a former teacher, had also volunteered at the Canberra Visitors Centre for about five years. “So I had a pretty good idea of what activities were happening in Canberra that the community could get along to,” she says.

Former village manager Tony Striegl took Jenny aside one day and asked her what could be done with the IRT community’s vacant kiosk. “I said we could run a gift shop and sell items that the residents have made, so I went on to organise that, and it was totally up my street,” she explains. “I had spent many years at craft shows and running my own stall.”

And for Jenny things snowballed from there – from putting labels on aged care centre bibs to running the gift shop and organising residents’ activities.

“And I’m happy doing it,” she says. “You get more out of volunteering than you realise and you are helping people out.”

Jenny also started the Paper Craft Group, whose members make beautiful decorative gift boxes, which are often used for aged care centre gifts.

“You can do a fair bit in a village like this,” she says. “I started the gift shop ten years ago and with a team of volunteers we kept it open five days a week.”

Jenny retired from running the gift shop in December 2019 as her husband Don needed more assistance. “During those ten years we raised $58,000,” Jenny says proudly. The money raised by the gift shop was donated to the Residents’ Committee which funds improvements to facilities, community activities and equipment used by residents. The committee also donates money to the aged care centre.

Contributing to the community has always been part of Jenny’s life. “I remember when I was 15 and living with my family in England. I was in the kitchen making finger food for the church youth dance and I can still see my mother coming in and saying ‘I don’t know why you always do this, there are other people in the group’. Volunteering has simply given me great delight over the years.”

Jenny is proud to say that two of her granddaughters are also passionate volunteers and fundraisers for various charities. “They went to Papua New Guinea to help build a library.”

Jenny also crochets blankets for charity and is keen supporter of the Heartbeat Victoria Council and the hospital, Epworth Richmond in Victoria, which treated one of her sons after he had a heart attack.

You can read more about Jenny and the other award winners at https://bit.ly/3sHfQSV.

A well-deserved win

Here’s an excerpt about Jenny from Suzanne’s nomination submission, which features on Volunteering ACT’s website:

For those in the village, Jenny works to ensure they feel like they are part of a community, introducing new residents to other residents they may have commonality with, developing activities and giving purpose through fundraising efforts. For those in the care centre, Jenny is focused on ensuring they are living with dignity, remembering birthdays and ensuring they are celebrated, bringing gifts for special occasions, such as mother’s and father’s day, and ensuring death is dignified by making a butterfly quilt.

Get involved

Volunteers play a key role in optimising the health, independence, wellbeing and quality of life of our residents by taking on roles which improve their access to companionship, social activities, transport and so much more.

Our residents enjoy having someone to talk to, and our volunteers enjoy talking to them too. Email irtvolunteering@agematters.org.au if you’re keen to start volunteering.

Janice Wu is the new Regional Volunteer Representative for Canberra region as Suzanne Gearing is no longer with the Age Matters IRT Volunteer Unit.

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