$1m funding to help the helpers
FOR more than 10 years volunteer Shirley Smith and a loyal team of drivers have been ferrying the elderly, disabled and underprivileged of Casino to doctors, the hospital and support agencies.
Yesterday Mrs Smith's life was made easier with the news that the NSW Community Services Department will give Uniting Care- Casino Transport $17,220 to buy first aid kits and train the 43 volunteers in mental health and emergency care.
The organisation is one of 26 North Coast community groups that will share in more than $1 million in grants through the Area Assistance Scheme.
Mrs Smith, the co-ordinator of Uniting Care-Casino Transport, has been working five days a week for 10 years as a volunteer, since helping to set up the organisation.
“It keeps me out of trouble,” she said modestly.
She and three drivers began transporting the needy around Casino in their cars in 1999 after 'noticing a need for the service'.
Today 33 drivers, still using their own cars, help more than 400 clients move around the town.
“We help who- ever has a need, if you don't have the ability to drive or own a car,” she said.
Mrs Smith said this included taking elderly people to the doctor, the mentally ill to hospital, and even driving underprivileged children to holiday camps.
She was grateful for the funding to give the volunteers mental health training.
“We once had a client try to grab the steering wheel,” she said.
“Other days you arrive to take someone to the doctor and they won't accept that their appointment is that day. We never know what is going to walk out the door.”
Other projects to share in the scheme are:
- $31,406 for commercial kitchen in Coraki Hall.
- $23,300 to renovate the ground floor of the Lismore Neighbourhood Centre.
- $34,259 to set up the Community Connections North Coast youth multimedia /arts space.
- $109,130 to rejuvenate the Tabulam Public Hall.
- $24,869 for Kyogle Real ArtWorks to buy audio/visual equipment.
- $72,000 for disabled facilities at Ballina's Sheraton House for homeless men.