Volunteer fundraisers honoured yesterday by the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service included (from left) Emily Betteridge, of Lismore, Lizzie Wratten, of Junction Hill, Mary Betteridge, of Lismore, and Ken Jolley, of Lismore, who received 25-year service medals, and crewman Mick Kerry, who received a Civilian Emergency Service Personnel National Medal for 15-plus years service.
Volunteer fundraisers honoured yesterday by the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service included (from left) Emily Betteridge, of Lismore, Lizzie Wratten, of Junction Hill, Mary Betteridge, of Lismore, and Ken Jolley, of Lismore, who received 25-year service medals, and crewman Mick Kerry, who received a Civilian Emergency Service Personnel National Medal for 15-plus years service. David Neilsen

Chopper recieved after decades

UNTIL yesterday, some Westpac Rescue Helicopter volunteers had not seen the well-utilised chopper with their own eyes.

So it was probably inevitable that one of the priorities for these volunteers included riding up and down in the helicopter’s winch.

About 150 volunteers gathered at the Lismore helicopter base for yesterday’s end-of-year celebrations. It was the first time volunteers from a region covering from Tweed Heads to Nambucca Heads, and out to Glen Innes, had been in the same shed.

Among the volunteers were several stalwarts who have been raising money for the helicopter for decades.

Lismore twin sisters Emily and Mary Betteridge, Goonellabah resident Ken Jolley and Lizzie Wrattan, from Junction Hill near Grafton, all received a 25-year service medal.

Two other Lismore volunteers, Ellie Morrissey and Pat Smith, picked up 20-year service medals.

Helicopter crewman Mick Kerry, its longest-serving employee, had his 18 years of service recognised with the Federal Government’s National Medal, which honours people who serve the community during times of crisis.

Mr Jolley, a Vietnam veteran, traded the frontline for the more genteel pursuit of ticket selling when the helicopter first started in the early 1980s. “It’s a life-saving machine. I just love doing it,” he said.

Mary Betteridge has seen her fundraising efforts comfortably stay ahead of inflation since she sold her first raffle tickets in 1983.

In the first one, she raised $56. Fast forward to 2009, and her latest raffle will raise more than $100,000 for the service. “I feel proud to be a part of it,” she said.

Doubtless the service is proud of its volunteers too, given they raise more than half the chopper’s $5.5 million annual budget. That’s a lot of raffle tickets, something helicopter general manager Kris Beavis is well aware of.

“Our volunteers are essential to the continuation of the rescue helicopter service,” he said.

Looks like the volunteers will have to stop playing with that winch, and get back to what they do best.



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