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Volunteering is the gift that keeps on giving

CONSUMER STORY – Jim Giles sits in the driver seat of his car, while his wife Grace approaches a cream brick house to deliver a nourishing, three-course meal to Mrs White, a recipient of Meals on Wheels South Australia (MoWSA).

Last updated: August 2nd 2022
Jim and Grace Giles in their 1949 Ford Prefect Ute, which they use to deliver festive food on Christmas Eve for Meals on Wheels SA. [Source: Supplied]

Jim and Grace Giles in their 1949 Ford Prefect Ute, which they use to deliver festive food on Christmas Eve for Meals on Wheels SA. [Source: Supplied]

Up until a minute ago, Mrs White’s ginger and white cat, Sadie, was stretched out on the cool tiles of the front verandah. Now, Jim can’t help but laugh when he looks over to see Grace trying to catch Sadie for Mrs White and bring her inside.

“Cat wrangling” upon delivery is just another reason why Meals on Wheels is more than just a meal.

Volunteering has become a big part of Jim and Grace’s retirement life. Prior to retirement, they were self-employed running their building company, Complete Building.

Jim decided to retire after coming off one roof “too many” and injuring his knee quite badly. The couple decided to retire, but after working together for so long, they wanted to find a new joint hobby to fill their retirement days.

The pair have always considered volunteering as an option for when they retire, but they didn’t expect to come across a volunteering opportunity before they had even retired.

Their journey as Meals on Wheels volunteers began following an interview with Glenn Mattingly of the Findon MoWSA Branch on Jim’s radio show.

“I brought Glen on the radio with me and he filled us in on everything and we came to the kitchen 23 years ago to see what happens and we have been there ever since. We actually gave up our Thursday mornings to deliver meals every week before we retired,” explains Jim.

“I guess you could say we were hooked and are still there today.”

Over the years, both Jim and Grace have held different kitchen positions for MoW before joining the Branch Committee. However, Jim’s involvement with MoWSA progressed further when President Bill Coomans confirmed his appointment to the MoWSA Board.

“I felt this to be an absolute privilege and was proud to accept it,” he says.

“Being on the Board of Meals on Wheels and representing our kitchen is extremely important to me. The Board has accepted me openly and my input is listened to and discussed.”

The people are everything

Grace has found that volunteering for her comes down to the people she gets to see and the knowledge that she is making a difference in their lives. Also, she finds the volunteering role is fun both on the road and in the kitchen.

“I go and have a bit of a natter with the customers… Sometimes we’re the only ones the customers see,” explains Grace.

“We have a lot of fun in the kitchen which makes up for getting up at six in the morning! It is incredibly rewarding and there is a role for everyone.”

Jim says he and Grace get the privilege of seeing the customers every week on the same day and leaving them knowing their nutritional needs are being met and that they are doing well.

“Volunteering gives you a really good purpose and because you’re helping people who are not quite as fortunate, it makes it all the more worthwhile,” explains Jim.

“The people themselves, thanking us for what we do is really rewarding. It is something we didn’t know about until we started volunteering.

“We also feel that our colleagues and our efforts together will make sure that our customers can live independently in their own home, in familiar surroundings, for as long as possible.

“A lot of people say, if it wasn’t for us they’d be in a nursing home somewhere, not in their home. They’re still living in their own home in their own area where their kids grew up and that is an important thing. It makes you feel good to know you’re helping keep them in their homes.”

Giving a little back to the community

Every Christmas Eve, Jim and Grace enjoy making the festive meal deliveries in their 1949 Ford Prefect Ute, which has been restored to the original RAA colours. Decorated with shiny tinsel, the spritely pair and their fancy set of wheels put a smile on their customers’ faces.

Jim says, “Grace and I have been working together every day for more than 30 years in different organisations and our own businesses. I think we are helping to supply a service to people that for many years have given themselves to their community. We are simply giving a little bit back.”

He says it makes them both feel proud when they are given a smile and a thank you, not only from the customers but from the family members as well.

Jim would highly recommend people to volunteer in their community, no matter if it is only a little bit of help here and there.

“I’ve found a lot of people say ‘we can only give an hour a week’ and I usually say to them it doesn’t matter! We need all the help we can get and an hour a week would be very helpful,” says Jim.

“Both of us really believe in what we are doing. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be here!”

*This consumer story was provided by Meals on Wheels South Australia

What type of volunteering are you planning to do in retirement? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

Volunteering benefits for older Australians
Returning to volunteering after a COVID-19 break
Volunteering an important addition to the retirement plan


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