A Queensland grandmother who has spent the last 30 years providing comfort to some of the state’s tiniest babies born at Mater Mothers’ Hospital has been recognised for her ongoing dedication and service.

Jenny Summerson, the longest-serving volunteer at Mater Mothers’ Hospital in Brisbane, has clocked up more than 6000 hours of volunteer work and was recently acknowledged at an awards ceremony at Mater for her compassion and kindness to patients.

More than 25 other long-serving volunteers were recognised for collectively contributing to almost 100,000 hours of service over three decades, including joint Mater Volunteers of the Year Brian and Barbara Daley and Mike and Mary Cardillo, and Susan Phillips, who crochets beanies for patients and babies.

Mrs Summerson, of Yeronga, said she “found her calling” after spotting an advertisement in a local newspaper asking for ‘100 helping hands’ at Mater, and has never looked back.

“At the time I really hated Mondays. It was like Mondayitis every week. Since becoming a volunteer, I have never felt that way about Mondays again,” Mrs Summerson laughed.

“I love helping people and being an extra pair of hands. Being able to assist families and their newborns is enjoyable, as well as interacting with medical staff.

“Sometimes I assist with babies who aren’t quite well enough to go home yet. I like giving them cuddles when their parents need a short break.”

With Christmas fast approaching Mater Volunteer Services senior manager Judy Johnson said she was grateful for the gift of time and empathy from volunteers and called on members of the community to considering joining the volunteer team at South Brisbane.

Volunteers make a profound impact on the care and services that Mater provides to the community,” Ms Johnson said.

“Quite simply, Mater just wouldn’t be Mater without our volunteers.”

Ms Johnson said celebrating the values common among volunteers is important .

“Community spirit, the satisfaction from helping others, expressing empathy and compassion when others are vulnerable.”

“Volunteers are often the glue that holds organisations together.” Ms Johnson said.

For Mrs Phillips, a Mater Private Clinic Welcome Lounge assistant, a “near-death experience” prompted her to “give back” to the hospital that saved her life.

For the past 17 years, Mrs Phillips has clocked up more than 4000 hours of service at Mater, talking and engaging with patients, and making them feel comfortable.

In her spare time, she also knits beanies for cancer patients and sick and premature babies.

“In 2003 I fell very ill and spent quite some time in hospital, I know what it’s like to be a patient. After being in a high paying job, money wasn’t everything,” Mrs Phillips, 70, said.

“Due to health complications I gave up work and started volunteering.”

Mrs Phillips said belonging to a “family of volunteers” gave her satisfaction.

“I am proud to be a volunteer, it’s the sort of thing you don’t do for any other reason than to support each other.”

Meanwhile 76-year-old Valerie Portley was recognised for more than 4300 hours as a theatre assistant at Mater Private Children’s Hospital since 2004.

The Upper Mount Gravatt resident welcomes parents and children who are often nervous about coming to hospital and enjoys making them feel at ease.

“I love interacting with patients and their families. I love making them feel relaxed when they’re feeling quite emotional,” Mrs Portley said.

Mrs Portley, a former teacher at McGregor State High School volunteers every Friday, starting her shift at 7.15am.

She said getting out of the house gave her an opportunity to meet new people.

“At 76 years of age I don’t feel old and it’s something I really enjoy doing,” Mrs Portley said.

“Volunteering allows so many people to give something back to society when they haven’t been able to due to work commitments.”

Mater Volunteer Services senior manager Judy Johnson told The Westender that while the post-war generation are gradually retiring from volunteering, however the baby boomers are joining the ranks as they retire from the workforce.

“We do need more volunteers of any age.  We recruit many students who are looking for an experience in a clinical environment.”


For more information phone Mater Volunteers on 3163 8599, email volunteers@mater.org.au or visit  Volunteering – Mater

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