PHOTOS: Eden celebrates the power of volunteering

Imlay Street was transformed into a sea of vibrant colour and activity on Thursday morning, as the Eden community celebrated the power of volunteering to mark National Volunteer Week.

Bega Valley Shire Council put on a free sausage sizzle with the generous help of volunteers from the Eden Services and Social Club Incorporated (ESSCI), while musical entertainment and a juggling performer kept the crowds entertained.

The event offered local community organisations the valuable chance to promote their activities, and encourage members of the community to join and donate their time.

Bega Valley Shire Council also marked the Eden celebrations by launching the Timebanking project, a NSW Government volunteering initiative that Council has partnered with for the benefit of communities around the shire.

Council’s volunteering coordinator Nathan Marshall said the Timebanking project is a way of building a stronger community and supporting each other.

“The project allows people to register and start banking the hours that they put in, from formal volunteering for organisations like ESSCI, Rotary, the Lions Club or Marine Rescue, through to helping their neighbours by mowing the lawn, cooking meals or cleaning,” Mr Marshall said.

“Everybody has something to offer, and for example, someone who is very good outdoors might help their neighbour out by mowing the lawn.

“They can then advertise for someone who can help them out with something like computer lessons, which they would get for free using those hours that they have banked from their own volunteer work.

“It can be a direct swap with somebody, or you can advertise for help with something you need, and advertise that you’re available to help out with certain jobs.

“It also works as a volunteer resource centre, so organisations can advertise when they’re looking for volunteers for a particular event or for ongoing work.

“Everyone can work together to get things done by both giving and receiving help.”

With many volunteers in the Eden area donating their time to such a wide array of organisations, a number of people will bank more hours than they can ever use themselves.

And while most volunteers are more than happy to fly under the radar and receive nothing in return, the Timebanking project gives these people the opportunity to donate the hours they have banked to people in need.

“You can donate your hours directly to someone you know, or put them into what’s called the Community Chest,” Mr Marshall said.

“We’ll set up a Community Chest for each community, and identify people who perhaps can’t volunteer, but they need some help.

“For example, people who have just come out of hospital or who may have lost their partner might be struggling a bit, and we can donate some hours to them.”

Mr Marshall also said that while receiving recognition is generally the last thing on a volunteer’s mind, it is important to notice their contributions with occasions like National Volunteer Week.

The Timebanking project also helps in this respect, particularly with people who donate their time at several places.

“It’s very easy to recognise someone who volunteers all of their time for one organisation, because someone at that organisation often nominates them when it comes to awards nights and things like that,” Mr Marshall said.

“But when you’ve got someone who volunteers at a lot of different organisations, and puts in a little bit of time at each, it’s very difficult to recognise that.

“With Timebanking, we can actually see everything that these people are doing are they bank their hours, and it gives us a chance to recognise them when events like this happen.

“Even though people say they don’t need recognition, it’s always nice for them to know that people are seeing all the great things you’re doing.

“As a Council, we want to show that it doesn’t go unnoticed, and promote the fact that we realise that these communities wouldn’t be anywhere near what they are now without so many people putting in their time and effort, simply for the benefit of each other.”

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