Volunteering – it’s one of those words that the dictionary fails to define.

Look it up, and you’ll find something like ’to freely offer to do something.’ But experience it – as a volunteer or a beneficiary – and you’ll know just how far beyond that definition the act of volunteering goes.

In this episode, hosts Dan Minchin and Louise Forster dig beneath the surface to find the true meaning behind volunteering. To do this, they call upon some of the amazing volunteers involved in Chorus. This episode is full of lived experiences and deep meaning – so sit back, tune in, and prepare for the ride!

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Lois Portelli & Philipa (Phyllis) Paganoni on Volunteering – [0:00]

The first volunteers we hear from are Lois Portelli and Philipa (Phyllis) Paganoni. Through Meals on Wheels, they’ve been providing food – and much more –  to their community for decades.

Lois draws on 26 years of volunteering with Meals on Wheels, and Phyllis has been volunteering for 23 years. They’ve come to form deep connections with the community, and with each other. When volunteers like Lois and Phyllis connect, a service becomes a friendship circle, a support network, a place where volunteers and customers truly come together.

Lois and Phyllis (above) have been giving back to  their community together for many years.

Dan and Louise on the Meaning of Volunteering – [4:30]

Louise has worked in the community service sector for more than 10 years. During that time, the most important thing she’s learned about volunteers is that they’re not a resource, they are people searching for purpose and connection.

That purpose and  connection – which volunteers give as well as  receive – go far beyond any job description and mean so much more. Which is why the Chorus mission enables both in its volunteer programs.

“It’s a whole family – an ecosystem, and everyone wins and benefits,”
– Louise says of the Chorus volunteer network.

A Look Inside a Volunteer Network – The Chorus Kitchen – [6:00]

With 86 volunteers and six paid staff members, the Chorus Kitchen is a perfect example of a volunteer-driven project.

“There’s no way we could do what we do without those volunteers. They’re an integral part of what we do.”
– Louise

Louise often visits the Kitchen, and that’s where she met Phyllis and Lois, today’s hosts. The inspiration for this podcast episode came from such a visit – and so did the idea for Louise to walk a day in the lives of Phyllis and Lois as they deliver meals around Perth.

Buckle up, we’re going for a ride!

Meals on Wheels: A Day in the Life – [8:50]

Host Louise joins long-time Meals on Wheels volunteers Phyllis and Lois on their weekly meal delivery drive.

Stop by stop, and from face to smiling face, Louise experiences first-hand just how much more a simple food delivery service becomes when you add the human element. Each customer is another friend, and they all remark on how much brighter their day gets when Phyllis and Lois stop by for a chat. It’s clear that volunteers and beneficiaries are part of the same community – it’s more a network of friendship than a service organisation.

What also becomes apparent is how wonderful Lois and Phyllis’ relationship is. They’ve been driving together for more than 20 years now, and have become fast friends. They call each other when things happen in their lives, and support each other through all the ups, downs and in-betweens.

A Chat with Verna – [18:00]

A brief sit-down with Chorus customer Verna gives a tiny glimpse into the volunteer-community relationship.

Verna just celebrated her 90th birthday, and she’s known Phyllis for  more than 70 years, so the chat is full of warmth and affection. The meals delivered for Verna three times a week strengthen her existing friendships and keep her connected.

What Motivates Volunteers – [20:00]

What you just heard is a tiny fragment of the bigger picture of volunteering. Across WA, a tremendous amount of energy goes into community service – and much of it through volunteering. It’s amazing to see.

But just what is it that motivates so many volunteers?

Dan and Louise interviewed a number of volunteers to get the real picture of what drives them. The answers are many and varied. Ranking highly among them are non-service motivations like meeting new people, finding purpose in daily life, and hearing stories from customers.

Here’s a video celebrating volunteers in WA, created by Community First, Volunteer Task Force and Care Options, who merged to create Chorus. This footage will give you a great picture of what volunteering can mean to those who open their lives to it.

Celebrating Volunteers Video

Fostering Volunteering at Chorus – [25:20]

Chorus does a lot of work to foster this community of volunteerism. There are too many Chorus volunteer groups to call out here, but we will look at a few larger initiatives ahead.

The Volunteer Minister’s Committee

Podcast host Dan has been invited to work with WA’s Minister of Volunteering to make the process easier across the state.

WA Volunteer of the Year

Chorus is sponsoring a WA Volunteer of the Year Award, with a gala dinner planned for later this year.

Dan is going through the Youth volunteer of the Year applications now, and is discovering many inspiring stories.

Thanks for Listening – Now Go Make a Difference! – [27:00]

Thanks for tuning into this episode of the Chorus Voices Podcast.  If you find yourself inspired by these stories, Dan and Louise highly recommend opening a volunteer opportunity.

With that, we come back to true blue volunteers Lois and Phyllis to say thanks and see you next time!

If you enjoyed this episode, please pop into iTunes and leave us a review! Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time.

Mentioned in This Episode

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