Meet the volunteer: Chantelle Ellem

Feb 17, 2023

As a business owner and mum to two beautiful girls, Chantelle is a busy person – but not too busy to regularly volunteer her time with In Great Company. Find out what drove her to begin volunteering in her community, and what she loves about her
time with her new friend June.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m Chantelle, and I’m happily married to Shane, who works as a Federal Police Officer, and together we have two beautiful girls, Lacey and Lulu. I wear many hats; I work online as a writer, I have a plus size clothing store, and I also help
small businesses with their social media. I love to swim at the beach, and my favourite thing to do is travel and explore new places.

How did you get involved with In Great Company?

Last year was the hardest year of my life. My daughter was being relentlessly bullied, and I spent most days consumed with worry for her, and quickly losing faith in the world. Selfishly I needed a distraction, and I needed to know that the world could
be better than what I was seeing.

I saw a callout for volunteers, and I knew it was for me. I already spent time volunteering feeding homeless people, and I felt that In Great Company would be a really enriching experience, and I jumped right in to learn more.

What attracted you to the cause or why do you volunteer with seniors facing loneliness and isolation?

I lost all of my grandparents at a young age, and my kids have even lost two of their grandparents as well, so we don’t have the gift of spending time with elderly often. When I was in my late teens, my Nanna was in a nursing home, and I would visit
her once a week and spend time with her for a few hours. I could see how much that meant to her, but I could also see the heartbreaking loneliness affecting the elderly around her.

Fast forward to now, and volunteering, and it’s such a simple, fulfilling way to make a difference and I’m so honoured to be part of it.

Did anything or anyone in your life play a role in providing inspiration for your involvement with lonely seniors?

I think we take our elderly for granted some times. Especially when I was younger, I was so busy and didn’t realise what a gift a life well lived is, and how nice it would be to have more time with the elderly in my life. I always think that if
I could have ‘just one more chat’ with my grandparents, I’d embrace it, so instead I’m enjoying many chats with my newfound friend, June.

Who did you visit and what did your visits involve?

Each week I visit with my beautiful friend June, who is 83 and lives close by to home. Our visits have been mostly at home as June has heart failure and doesn’t feel well enough to venture out. We love to just chat and talk about life. She’s
one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met, and every time I leave her house, I feel like my cup is full. I call it the June Effect. She’s got a way with people.

Can you tell us what makes this friendship special for you?

Despite being 40 years different in age, we’re so alike. The first day I met June, she told me her love story, and I could see the love in her eyes, and the joy she had reliving the story again as she walked me through the details. I have a love
like hers too, and it’s magical to know that we have both had that. We’re both soft, sensitive souls who care about everything, so it’s nice to spend time together.

Do you have a story shared with your senior client that really moves you?

Two weeks ago, I’d had a stressful morning, and as I drove to June’s house, I wasn’t in the best mood. You know when your plate is full, and overflowing, and you just don’t know how you can handle everything?

I pulled up to June’s house, which always has a bush of bright yellow flowers out the front, and went in to see her, and we spent hours talking. Straight away, just being in June’s presence, removed all my worries.

We always part ways with a hug, and those hugs are the very best. I drove away a different person, and that’s what I love. June says that she feels the same after our visits every week, and that I’m like a daughter she never had. It’s
a special bond.

Have you learnt anything about yourself or others through this experience?

I have learned to just slow down. We’re busier than ever and being with June has reminded me what’s important in life, and to appreciate what I have.

Do you have a message to share with others looking to become a friendly visitor volunteer?

Two words; Do it. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done, and it will be a big part of my life forever more. I look forward to my June days, and I know June does too. She’s become a part of our family. My kids adore her too, and
I’m proud to be role-modelling to them to make time for those who need a little bit of love and attention.

Ready to become, or find, a volunteer? Find out more here.