On the 11th of September Howard and Mary Jones from Berkeley Vale NSW were the recipients of The Centre for Volunteering, “2017 NSW Volunteer of the Year” award for the Central Coast. Held at the Gosford Golf Club and presented by Members of Parliament, this award recognises their outstanding service and dedication to Frontier Services for their tireless efforts supporting and connecting with the people of Outback Australia.

Howard and Mary’s love for discovering Australia and their commitment to helping and serving others, makes this a wonderful combination for this very special senior couple.

Their care and compassion for people is truly inspiring and as we write this article they are two weeks into their three-month Outback Links Queensland trip and took time out to reflect and share their thoughts on just why they give back.

What inspired you to start volunteering?
When were retired, we spent a couple of years discovering the beauty around Australia with our caravan, and we were ready to experience something more.

What inspired you to volunteer and why Frontier Services?
After reading the Frontier News in 2009 we saw an ad on the back page requesting volunteers for Outback Links. This would combine our love of travelling and our desire to help people as well as give us an appreciation of why people live and work in such remote areas.

What time do you give for volunteering?

Usually three to five months every year we do community trips spending two weeks on each property as individual volunteers, in a group situation and speaking to churches on of Frontier Services.

Why do you like helping others?

We love using our skills to help people in need as well as being a listening ear to those who are going through a difficult time. It is a wonderful opportunity to make, fix or repair things around the house which the owners/managers have not had the time to do as the care of their animals is the top priority. Their problems have been exacerbated by the continuing drought which creates financial hardship. We love learning what is involved in caring for sheep and cattle before they are sent to the sale yards which provides some of our staple diet.

What is your proudest moment as a volunteer?

Howard – Proudest moment is being able to make or repair something around the house that makes life more pleasant for the owners.
Mary – Proudest moment was hearing from a lady who said she felt as if she had had a heavy cloud lifted off her shoulders after she had organised her cupboards and done several other jobs for her.

What do you do during your free time?

Howard – Photography and spending time with the grandchildren.
Mary – Reading, knitting, sewing and card making for the family.

Any advice for new volunteers just getting started?

The first thing is to listen carefully to what is actually required and be prepared to do the task in the way they would like it done. We have found it helpful to bring such things as a sewing machine, tools, gardening tools and plumber’s equipment such as tap washers. Being able to bring our own caravan allows us to have our own space while on the property as well as giving the owner/managers their own space for part of the day. The caravan helps us to travel between properties in remote areas.

Finally, any other sharings?

By helping people in the Outback we are showing them that other people care about them.
We have gained lifelong friends and continue to support some of them with phone conversations and sometime prayer requests. We have gained a greater appreciation of the joys and struggles of life in isolated areas.

1Peter 4:10-11 is our inspiration to gracefully serve others using the gifts and the strengths God has provided us.

Frontier Services congratulates Howard and Mary and are blessed to have these two very special people committing their time on a practical and spiritual level with our Outback Links program. They make a significant difference to the lives of the people and communities in remote Australia.

Howard and Mary were presented the Senior Finalist award which led to Senior Winner for the Central Coast. There were four categories and after the winners in each category were announced they received the honour as the overall Volunteer of the Year Central Coast. They have been invited to attend the Grand Finals for all NSW Regions in December.

Acknowledgement of Country

Frontier Services acknowledges the sovereign First Peoples on whose lands and waters we live, meet, and work.

We pay our respects to their Elders past and present and to all descendants of these Nations who have cared for this place since Creation.