Caring about the aged and lonely
DELMA Gillespie has visited Val Bruggy at The Cedars nursing home in Casino for 16 years.
Miss Bruggy is 84 and would be alone in the world if not for a cousin in Kyogle.
Her parents died within a year of each other when she was 30. She went to stay with family - but they put her into an aged-care home while she was in her early 30s and has been in one facility or another ever since.
"It means such a lot to me that Delma visits," Miss Bruggy, wearing a pretty pink kerchief over her white hair, said in a whisper.
"She comes once a fortnight and without her I wouldn't have anyone to come regularly and talk to me. I really look forward to seeing her."
They were attending a Christmas breakfast to celebrate and thank the many volunteers within the Community Visitors Scheme, including Mrs Gillespie, at Lismore's Red Dove Centre.
Nora Vidler-Blanksby who was the scheme's founding co-ordinator hosted the breakfast.
In 1993, the Lismore Neighbourhood Centre received Federal Government funding to start the Community Visitors Scheme on the Northern Rivers.
Many other districts around Australia started around the same time - but the Lismore-based service is the only one that has held strong for 16 years with 60 volunteers.
Visitors see people in 13 aged-care facilities from Casino to Suffolk Park.
They are skilled in dealing with the frailties of age, such as dementia, hearing or sight loss and physical disability.
Mrs Gillespie said Miss Bruggy had no photograph of her parents and she now had cancer, but when she was able to get around a bit more, Mrs Gillespie's family would welcome them.
"She's part of my family," Mrs Gillespie said.
"I have got as much out of being a community visitor as I've given.
"We all feel like that - we wouldn't do it if we didn't."
Speakers at the breakfast, including Page MP Janelle Saffin and Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell who put Lismore's success down to the support, training and care that Ms Vidler-Blanksby gave her team - although Ms Vidler-Blanksby insisted the credit was all due to the volunteers themselves.