Treasurer Judy Parry and president Jill Goodman are busy preparing for the Lismore Ladies Benevolent Society’s 120th anniversary.
Treasurer Judy Parry and president Jill Goodman are busy preparing for the Lismore Ladies Benevolent Society’s 120th anniversary. Rebecca Lollback

Ladies Society marks 120 years

LIKE so many volunteer groups across the Northern Rivers, the Lismore Ladies Benevolent Society has always struggled to recruit enough members to continue their important community work.

So it is a real show of strength that the organisation is about to celebrate its 120th anniversary.

The society’s president, Jill Goodman, and treasurer, Judy Parry, believe it is the oldest charity in Lismore.

“We want to honour all those volunteers who have worked with us over the years,” Mrs Goodman said.

“We are all getting older now.

“The youngest member is in her 60s, but we’re mostly in our 70s and 80s.

“We have always been a small group and it’s just getting harder and harder to get volunteers.”

It certainly hasn’t stopped the Benevolent Society from making a real difference to the lives of needy and disadvantaged people in Lismore over its 120-year history.

The organisation was started in 1890 with the aim of raising money for people in need.

Twelve ladies devoted their time to helping residents of the Northern Rivers receive medical treatment by arranging and paying for patients to go to Sydney hospitals.

Mrs Goodman said volunteers used to take patients to the city because at that time, there were no specialists based in the region.

“The society fundraised at street stalls, with raffles and a ball each year, which was very popular,” she said.

“We also helped a lot of people during the major floods.

“Over the years our direction has changed.

“That’s probably what has kept us going all this time.”

Through two World Wars and the Great Depression, the Lismore Ladies Benevolent Society was there.

The society’s appointed historian, Fred Goodman, said that during the Depression the women helped by providing boots for men who had worn theirs out while pounding the pavements looking for work.

“Men were walking around so much that their boots would wear out,” he said.

“Around this time the society also started realising that there would soon be a need for affordable homes for the aged.”

That was in the 1940s.

But it took until 1962 for the Lismore Ladies Benevolent Society to actually get the first four of its units, which are situated in Amaroo Place in Lismore. This happened with the help of Apex, and then another four units were built with assistance from Quota.

The society now has 12units – the last four were built in partnership with the State Government.

“A significant number of women, and some men, have been very committed to this organisation,” Mr Goodman said. “It’s outstanding.”

In his history of the organisation, he has written: “Across three centuries Lismore Ladies Benevolent Soc-iety has provided care, comfort and compassion for those in need.

“It has not always been easy.

“The 120th anniversary is an opportunity to acknowledge the unselfish work and achievements of these women.”

Mrs Parry agreed, and said it was the type of organisation which had a purpose and a reason for existing.

“All of the members are close – once you’re involved you really understand how important it is,” she said.

The Lismore Ladies Benevolent Society no longer does any fundraising, but thanks to exceptional financial management, it still makes regular donations to service groups and maintains its Amaroo Place units to a high standard.

The society will celebrate its 120th anniversary on Oct-ober 14 with a function at Inv-ercauld House. The special guest will be NSW Governor, Professor Marie Bashir.

Lismore mayor Jenny Dow-ell and Lismore MP Thomas George will also attend the dinner.

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