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Ilona the Rummikub Queen

Ilona Wilhems counts herself lucky to have three volunteer companions - especially as she has converted 2 out of 3 of them to Rummikub! She speaks highly of the time she gets to spend with them, and hopes to have their friendship for as long as possible. 

Why did you decide to register for the In Great Company companionship program? What did your weeks look like before you started the program?

I wanted someone to play scrabble, snooker, go to a movie, have a chat and spend some time with. My family all live in Melbourne, so I don’t have anyone here.

I have lived in my house of 2 acres on the Gold Coast for 21 years, where I don’t see or speak to my neighbours that often. Then when COVID came, all of the social groups I used to enjoy closed down as well. I used to go and play Rummikub at the local library, but then that all stopped. I realised that I would really like to have some company.

I practice yoga 3 mornings a week, take care of the garden, I use the ride-on mower which came with my house. I also swim in my pool, walk a lot and I read a great deal. My social life is the library where I get books and videos.

Tell us a bit about your volunteer companions. How often do you meet? What activities do you do together?

Neville is my movie buddy, so when there is a movie on that we both want to see, we go to the movies. I got him a 'companion card' now, so he doesn’t have to pay when he comes with me. His son came once with us and we saw a horror movie, but Nev fell asleep during the movie!

Antonio is a new volunteer who has come a few times now. He is lovely. I have introduced him to Rummikub which is a great game for young and old. He also helps in the garden sometimes, he brings his clippers and has cut back a few hedges for me.

Nathan is a great young man who comes on a Monday after work, and I’ve now introduced him to Rummikub as well.

How has your life changed since meeting with your volunteer companions? What are you most proud of?

Without my family around, having company from community volunteers has become important to me. I don’t drive and need to rely on transport through community transport and Feros Care. They have removed public transport where I live but I can walk to the village in Mudgeeraba.

I consider them like family and really look forward to their visits. I’m not computer literate and I don’t have a mobile, but they can help with that too. Just knowing they are coming gives me something to look forward to.

Antonio and Nathan both work so it makes it even more special that they can spend time with me. I am very appreciative of that.

What would you like to achieve together in the future?

That we stay in touch for as long as they are prepared to come along and spend time with me. I don’t want to move or downsize; I just love my home and I need my volunteers; they help me so much. I am very lucky to have 3 when I know some people don’t have any.

I have worked as a volunteer for 15 years of service, I work at the best Op Shop in Mudgeeraba. I was presented with a certificate from the Op Shop at the Christmas dinner last year.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in the In Great Company companionship program?

I would definitely send them to Feros Care and ask them to find out about In Great Company and what it has done for me.  

Everyone deserves great company. Find your real friend - request to be matched with a volunteer visitor here.

Young man and senior man fishing

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