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19 June 2020

“Life is too short to be serious” – Barb, volunteer at North Shore

Barb Johnsson loves community. She loves helping people and doing whatever she can to make someone else’s day a good one.

After retirement, Barb found herself with plenty of time to put towards an interest. Barb’s mum lives in Arcare North Shore and on her many visits, she found herself enjoying the activities being facilitated by the Lifestyle team.

‘I wouldn’t mind doing something like this’, Barb thought to herself. She spoke with the Lifestyle Co-ordinator signed up for volunteering and hasn’t looked back since.

Barb now volunteers at Arcare North Shore three times a week, for around six hours per visit. ‘I keep my visits with Mum separate from the volunteering, but she still gets plenty of attention,’ Barb says with a smile.

The support Barb provides to the Lifestyle team is invaluable. Barb spends hours helping any way she can, including mending clothes, reading to those who can no longer read, making residents costumes for special events, running groups such as the weekly library trolley and art and craft, or visiting residents one-on-one for a chat.

‘I love spending time with everyone one-on-one the best. My favourite thing is to sit with them outside in the sun and listen to their stories over a cuppa. Whatever they feel like talking about, I’m happy to listen,’.

From working in childcare for 22 years, Barb is used to standing in front of an audience and finding ways to keep their attention. ‘I’ll do whatever I can to help make their days brighter,’ says Barb.

‘If I have to sing and dance around, that’s what I’ll do to make them smile. Life’s too short to be serious.’

Last year, North Shore’s Lifestyle Co-ordinator, Tracey Perrett nominated Barb for the City of Townsville’s ‘Volunteer of the Year’ Award. ‘We wanted to recognise Barb for all her voluntary contributions. Her compassion for the residents and families is amazing and her shoulders have been cried on many times,’ Tracey said. Barb was thrilled to attend the awards ceremony and to receive her Certificate of Recognition from the Mayor.

We asked Barb what it is about volunteering at Arcare North Shore that she loves the most and she replied, ‘The people. I absolutely love everybody, from the residents and their families, to the staff. It’s a real community and everyone supports each other. I love having the opportunity to share this stage of people’s lives with them. It’s a privilege.’

As a great-grandmother, Barb is also very involved with her own family, who supports her commitment for volunteering at North Shore. ‘They all know the days I’m volunteering, so they have to organise time with me around that’, Barb says.

Volunteering plays a big part in Barb’s life. When she’s not attending North Shore in person, she’s knitting gifts for the residents and staff or finding ways to let them know she cares. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when volunteers have not been allowed to visit the residence in person, Barb has written over 100 letters to residents, letting them know she’ll be back again soon. ‘I just want them to understand that I haven’t gone anywhere and will be back again, as soon as I can,’ Barb says.

The community at Arcare North Shore sees Barb as part of the family. Residence Manager Matthew Wise says, ‘We are so grateful for all of Barb’s contributions. She has a big heart for everybody. We can’t wait to see her smiling face around the corridors again. In the meantime, it’s lovely to see she’s keeping in touch by writing letters to residents.’

Written by Margaret Furlong, Volunteer Coordinator at Arcare

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