June 22nd, 2020Wonderful feeling in just helping people
IF THERE’S one definition of a good woman, Gayle McCarthy certainly fits it.
The best part is, all of her community work, all of her fundraising efforts, just comes naturally to her and are straight from the heart.
“It just goes back to – I love what I do. It’s not rocket science. What I do is wonderful, I love helping people and it’s just a wonderful feeling,” Gayle explained.
Gayle is the Social Support coordinator for Hepburn Shire Council and she has been for more than 30 years, having started back in the day assisting with things like housekeeping and shopping and showering.
“I call myself a repeat offender, because I was doing it for a while, then I had a break for about 13 months, and then I came back and I’ve been doing it for about 23 years now.”
The objective of the social support program is to support keeping people living independent in their home and the community, so Gayle’s job is to coordinate social groups of older residents and, very clearly, it’s also her passion.
“They may be isolated because of age, illness or physical disability, and we provide days out – we could go to the movies, we could go to Morning Melodies, those types of things and they really enjoy that.
“But sometimes it’s the really simple things, like grabbing a bus full of people and going and getting fish and chips, wrapped up in paper like they remember, each one individually, and sitting at a park bench with a coffee and a chat. It’s things like that, the simplest things that we take for granted, that give my clients the greatest of pleasure.”
The groups are suspended at the moment due to the global pandemic but Gayle was still determined to find a way to help her clients connect. She has led her team in making activity bags which are dropped off at clients’ houses and contain activities tailored to what the client likes and dislikes, including card-making kits, crossword and find-a-word puzzles, even an old-style recipe for things like bread and butter pudding.
“We’ve got a modified style now, we keep checking in by phone and we have quite a good relationship so it makes it a lot easier to check in by phone. Actually, they keep telling me ‘I’m fine, love. I’m fine’. And they are. And I think ‘oh, yes, these people have been through things in their life that are a lot more challenging than this’, our older people in our community are very resilient.”
The other passion that Gayle has is closer to home.
Each year, at The Farmer’s Arms in Daylesford, she helps raise thousands for Movember. Her husband, Ian, passed away in October last year due to cancer.
“The fundraising started very small and as Ian’s illness progressed and we knew it wasn’t going to go away it grew into the most beautiful community event, I’m going to call it an event, that I’ve ever seen.
“From now on it will be my baby, the last few months of every year.”
Last year, the event was held just weeks after Ian passed away. It raised more than $16,000 and over the years, the total raised is more than $86,000.
“The passion, the community that we have here…it’s so big, I can’t really quantify what they mean to me.”
To many, that shows what Gayle is all about. But to Gayle?
“To me, it shows what this community’s all about.”
Words: Kate Taylor | Image: Kyle Barnes
(This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.)