Dedicated volunteer says goodbye after 15 years and 14,000 hours

Published 9:00am 12 August 2022

Dedicated volunteer says goodbye after 15 years and 14,000 hours
Words by Ashleigh Howarth

A dedicated volunteer who has given roughly 14,000 hours of her own time to helping others has retired.

Maree Inglis has spent the past 15 years of her life volunteering at Encircle Pine Rivers Neighbourhood Centre where she answered phones and provided face-to-face support for people who walked through the doors.

Encircle volunteers are vital to the not-for-profit organisation as they take down all important information from community members seeking assistance and then connect them with the right services that best meet their needs.

“I came straight from working some 20-odd years in a bank, and in that job, I saw a lot of people didn’t know a great deal about money management,” Maree says.

“So, I came to volunteer at Encircle because I wanted to help people.

“I got the role pretty quickly, within a week I think.”

A rewarding experience

Knowing how to deal with different people and the different circumstances they present is a skill and requires empathy and compassion.

Thousands of people from all walks of life reach out to Encircle each year seeking food, clothing, housing assistance, counselling and mental health services, just to name a few.

“They were all sorts of different people who were dealing with situations that had developed in their lives, many through no fault of their own,” Maree says.

“Even in their own moment of madness and confusion due to what was happening in their lives, you know they are grateful for your help.”

Dedicated volunteer says goodbye after 15 years and 14,000 hours

Creating lasting friendships

From the moment they met, Maree and June Ditchburn have been good friends who loved working on the front desk together at Encircle.

June is another valued volunteer, who has been helping out for 24 years.

Together, they are known around the office as the Scotch Finger Ladies, due to their fondness of cracking open a packet of biccies to have with their morning tea.

According to them both, Scotch Fingers reign supreme in the biscuit world, and no other type or flavour comes close to the humble buttery classic.

“At one of the many early Christmas parties, one of the questions that was asked was “who likes Scotch Finger biscuits”, and everyone knew straight away it was us,” Maree says, laughing.

Maree and June still meet for morning tea regularly. 

Give back to your community

Having loved her time at Encircle, Maree would like to encourage others in the community to think about giving back to their local community.

“Just go for it,” Maree says.

“You have nothing to lose.”

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