Tenterfield has recognised the efforts of five special volunteers during National Volunteers Week. EMILY BOYLE reports.
THEY are our unsung heroes, the lifeblood of a small community like Tenterfield, and while many dread having the spotlight on them, once a year the contributions made by our volunteers are put up front and centre.
May 14-20 was National Volunteer Week across Australia and the local celebrations did not go unnoticed.
In Tenterfield, a special afternoon tea was organised at the Courtyard Café to pay tribute to the countless hours put in by our many volunteers.
In particular the efforts of five people were recognised with certificates presented to those who had achieved over a decade or more of volunteer service.
Val Gardiner, Ione Curry and Patrick Cahill were presented with awards for the hours of volunteer time they have given to the Tenterfield School of Arts and Museum.
Gayle O’Hara was presented with an award for 20 years of service at the Tenterfield Visitors Information Centre and Helen Harpham was presented with an award for 17 years of service at Tenterfield Library.
Business officer with Tenterfield Shire Council Harry Bolton said while every volunteer in town deserved to have their efforts recognised, these five individuals had gone above and beyond.
Mr Bolton made special mention of Patrick Cahill who had worked at the School of Arts since the cinema reopened in 2001.
“Except for when he has been on holidays, Patrick has been working as our projectionist every Sunday afternoon since we opened,” he said.
“That is a big contribution for anyone but for someone to do that in their own time is pretty incredible.”
Deputy mayor Peter Petty talked about the important role volunteers played in helping to organise local community events.
“They are the faces our visitors and travellers see and it is because of them so many of our visitors feel as welcome as they do,” he said.
“Whether you’re an organiser or just helping out, it is important to feel like you’ve achieved something and I just hope you know how proud we are to have you in our town.”
Gayle O’Hara has spent all her life in Tenterfield including a large proportion of that time volunteering at Tenterfield’s Visitors’ Information Centre.
On Thursday, she received an award for 20 years of volunteer service, one of the longest contributions the centre has seen since it was established in 1992.
Growing up in Tenterfield, Gayle first started volunteering at the visitors’ centre shortly after completing a course at TAFE.
She said local tourism manager Patti Ainsworth encouraged her to start volunteering and she has been with the visitors’ centre ever since.
“Patti is the best boss we could ask for - she is such a wonderful person and I absolutely love working with her, she makes it easy and very, very enjoyable,” she said.
“I don’t do volunteering to get awards like this, this is such a surprise, I do it because I enjoy it.”
Over the years, Gayle has provided assistance to hundreds of travellers.
She said Tenterfield had a variety of attractions but said for her the hidden treasure lay in the natural landscape and beauty of the Tenterfield seasons.
“We live in such a beautiful place. We have everything you could need or want whether it’s our national parks, or scenic drives or even the heritage and history of the place there is a lot to see and do. I love Tenterfield. I could not imagine living anywhere else.”
Helen Harpham was presented with an award for her services for 17 years as a volunteer at Tenterfield Library.
As a former teacher, Helen said she decided to start volunteering at the library as a way to occupy herself after retirement.
“It is important you use your abilities. If you don’t use them you will lose them,” she said.
“As I got older it seemed important for me to get involved in the community and to give something back. I like being able to help people and to talk to them and learn something new or different, if you are not learning then I don’t know what else you’re doing.
“When you are retired you have a lot more time on your hands and it makes sense to get involved in community kinds of things,” she said.
“I would like to think that I will keep doing this for as long as I can but another 10 years - I don’t know about that,” she laughed.
Ione Curry has been volunteering at the School of Arts since 2001. On Thursday, she received an award for 11 years of volunteer service with the organisation.
After marrying her husband Ray and moving to Tenterfield from Tweed Heads in 1991, Ione said she first began volunteering at Millrace Aged Care Hostel.
“I didn’t know many people before I moved and getting involved and volunteering was a wonderful way for me to meet new people and make some new friends,” she said.
Since those early days, Ione has been involved with countless other organisations and events, including Quota, the School of Arts, Centenary C ottage and the horticultural society.
Of all her commitments, Ione is particularly proud of her involvement with Quota and its biennial eisteddfod.
On a regular basis she can be found at Millrace, playing bowls and the piano to the residents.
While Ione is not one to boast, she does admit it does take someone special to be a volunteer.
“You have to enjoy sitting down and talking to people, especially the older people - they really get a lot out of it when you spend time with them,” she said. “I guess you could call it compassion but I’ve never really thought of myself like that I just do it because I want to.”
You have to be willing to get involved in things to get in and do things, to put your hand up and not wait to be asked and don’t say.”