ESSENTIAL: Neighbourhood Centre volunteer Paula Turner.
ESSENTIAL: Neighbourhood Centre volunteer Paula Turner.

Heroes of the pandemic: Neighbourhood Centre volunteer

SOME people are still required to go to work during this national shutdown.

We’re speaking with essential workers to hear how their jobs have changed and how they’re keeping things turning in the Central Highlands.

We’ll bring you their stories.

Paula Turner jumped at the chance this February to volunteer at the Emerald Neighbourhood Centre.

She wanted to find out first-hand about the needs of the town.

“It’s been amazing to see what they do,” Mrs Turner said. “To see the people who come in here and have a real connection to the place.”

Mrs Turner is one of the essential workers keeping Emerald functioning and helping those who need a hand.

“People need us because we’re a frontline service,” she said. “People from all walks of life can come in here, grab food, and if they need something more than that, they know it’s available for them.”

The Neighbourhood Centre has a lot to offer its visitors. It provides relief to the poor, homeless, or financially unstable; it supports anyone with poor mental health; and it helps young people find work.

“I’m the first contact,” Mrs Turner said. “They usually will connect with me and I do whatever jobs are needed: sometimes delivering stuff or picking stuff up.

“Without volunteers these guys would really struggle.”

Despite recent precautions putting greater physical distance between Neighbourhood Centre workers and clients, Mrs Turner said her job is essentially the same. In fact, she has been doing it for so long that it has become characteristic.

“People at the moment don’t really know what life looks like for them. We do our best to make people feel comfortable and that we’ve connected with them in some way.”

“What drives me is compassion for people. Just to be able to help people when they’re in great need, even if that’s just with a smiley face, a word of encouragement – whatever people need.

“That’s been a part of my life for the last 40 years. It’s part of who I am.”


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