Volunteering a secret to youth
BEING a volunteer invariably translates to being busy: an almost guaranteed way to defy ageing, if you ask Joan McLellan.
It has been incentive enough – even if it wasn’t the initial motivator – for the Warwick grandmother to spend the past 60 years sharing her time with needy local causes.
She has been on school committees, worked at the blood bank, helped struggling families, organised work-experienced programs, run gardening clubs, kicked off the local university for the third age, taught bridge, and the impressive list goes on.
In 2005 Mrs McLellan’s substantial efforts were recognised with an Order of Australia Medal.
Even turning 85 this year hasn’t deterred her enthusiasm for community involvement.
Just a few months ago she started a movie appreciation group from her home.
“I have noticed those of my friends and acquaintances who have given their time remain very active,” Mrs McLellan said.
“I think when you are busy and involved you have less time to dwell on what’s wrong with you.
“You don’t have time to think about ageing or ailments.”
Time and age are two elements this eloquent local has always managed well.
First as a young student – one of Queensland’s first women to study science – and later as the mother of two with a myriad of additional roles.
“I started work in the Department of Primary Industries back when it wasn’t that common forwomen,” Mrs McLellan said.
“That was how I met my husband; he was a vet.
“We moved to Warwick in 1949. He was the first private vet in town.”
She was 24 and determined – in a quiet and enchanting way – to make a difference.
“I always thought you should give back to your community in some way,” Mrs McLellan said.
“I found volunteering you always got back more in the sense of personal achievement than it cost you in effort.”
For years she juggled motherhood, with her role of assistant nurse in the vet practice, part time science teaching and volunteering.
“I helped at the blood bank every Tuesday night for years; it was a sacred commitment,” she said.
“If my husband had to work, the kids would come down there and do their homework in their dressing gowns.”
She cites among her most rewarding achievements a work-preparation program she organised at Warwick High School for close to a decade.
A local program educating needy families about parenting andbudgeting is also high on her list of voluntary roles which made a difference.
These days she, like many of her generation, has found herself gradually withdrawing from voluntary commitments.
“There is a whole heap of us in our 70s and 80s who are slowly nudging out of roles.
“I do worry who will replacepeople like me; there does seem to be a little bit of shortage of volunteers.”
With her, being “too busy” doesn’t sit well.
“I think if everybody does just one thing in their community vol- untarily it makes our world a better place.”
Besides, she added, from a scientific, or more accurately a fiscal perspective, volunteers were vital for a robust economy.
“Where would we be if everyone was paid for everything they did?”
Meanwhile this engaging grandmother plans to keep on giving her precious time.