Shirley’s heart-warming adventures with volunteer Nick

Feb 17, 2023

Shirley was feeling lonely after losing her late husband Ernie. Thankfully, volunteer Nick has put a smile on her face with his unique ideas for getting out and about. From surprise fishing to art gallery expeditions and swimming, here’s what
Shirley has been up to – and what she loves about In Great Company. Check out Nick’s story to find out more about his experience too. 

Why did you decide to register for the In Great Company Volunteer Program? 

My late husband Ernie was with Feros Care, and they treated him very well, so I just stayed with them when I got my Home Care Package. They have been so good to me too and I couldn’t speak more highly of them.

My Wellbeing Manager at the time, Rachel, recommended the program to me for a friendly visitor volunteer, as I was feeling quite lonely after losing Ernie and having increased health concerns. I decided to give it a go and I am so glad that I did.

What did your weeks look like before you started the program?

I joined National Seniors at Aspley and I still spend time with them. I have met a really nice group of people, but I only go there every 3 weeks and I still spent a lot of time on my own.

Tell us a bit about your friendly volunteer.

Nick and I were matched around September last year. I didn’t know what to expect but we could not be a better match. He lives about 15 minutes away from me. He is great company, and we have a good time together. I really look forward to his
visits every fortnight.

Nick gives me that lift I need; we have such a laugh. Initially my family asked how old this man was, I think they were worried he was trying to woo me (laughing)! Now they are simply just grateful to see what a wonderful impact he has made to my
life. Oh, and the stories I could tell!

How often do you meet? 

Every second Wednesday, it’s locked in.

What activities do you do together?

On our first visit he took me to visit my brother in Scarborough who has been unwell, and I am unable to drive that far anymore, Nick and he got on really well too, they have both travelled the world. We went for fish and chips by the seaside which
was delicious. Nick took a photo of us together which I was just thrilled about.

We have been to visit the Southbank Gardens where Nick again took some lovely photos with me and the beautiful flowers, then a drive through the city to see a few of the old buildings where I used to work. We drove down Adelaide Street, past the old
Magic Casket Agency building and I used to sit in the window selling tickets. So that brought back wonderful memories.

Another trip was to the Sandgate Pier I said “where are you taking me” next thing we pulled up near the jetty and he opened the boot and pulled out 2 fishing rods. I couldn’t believe it. It was such a laugh, then we walked out to
the covered area, so it was shady. It wasn’t the most successful day, but I did catch a small fish – I think it was a toad (laughing). I showed Nick up though, he didn’t catch anything. He did get out the tea and coffee and a chocolate
so that made up for it.

We have also been to the Modern Art Museum in Brisbane where Nick was able to take me around in a wheelchair that he organised when we arrived. I really enjoyed that. He treats me like a queen.

Last week’s adventure was to the local pool, where he’s encouraging me to get in up to my waist at least, I haven’t bought any togs yet, but I was able to walk in via the ramp up to my knees. I told him I’m 88 years old. It’s
been a long time since I’ve been in the water, I dog paddle, but I can’t swim. A couple of other ladies told me to get in in my clothes and I would be dry in no time. Anyway, maybe we will go and buy some togs. Nick even made scones
with jam and cream and brought them to the swimming pool.

Collage of 3 photos of Shirley. First photo: Shirley posing for a photo with Southbank Gardens behind her. Second photo: Shirley holding a fishing rod with the fish she caught. Third photo: Shirley sitting in a wheelchair looking at an artwork on the wall

How has your life changed since meeting with your volunteer?

‘Immensely’ is the word, I genuinely appreciate that I am with In Great Company. They have given me a big lift and I just feel so good.

I can get depressed and very down and he gives me something to look forward to. I just love our outings. He rings me the night before and says “Right, Shirley tomorrow you will need a hat and some walking shoes!”, or whatever I need for
the day.

What are you most proud of?

I was a dancer in my day. I was a ballroom dancer at Cloudland where I met my husband. He was from Tasmania. Ernie walked in the door, I was booked with another man, but we made eye contact and ended up being married for 66 years. It was love at first

I was also given a Trophy for Club Woman of the Year for the Windsor-Zilmere AFL club about 20 years ago, because I kept the doors open when it was about to be closed. I got in touch with all the players from 10 years before, did a big event to raise
money and got the crowds back into the club. I was very embarrassed getting the trophy, but I appreciated it.

What would you like to achieve together in the future?

Quite happy with how things are going, anything is a treat. He is unbelievable. He took me to see his house which is a beautiful old Queenslander, he has a lovely wife and 3 lovely girls. I call him ‘Rock Hudson’ and he grins. I’m
just so glad he has the time for me, even though he is a busy man.

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

I would HIGHLY recommend contacting In Great Company. I have had a lot of pleasure in talking and meeting everyone in In Great Company and Feros Care. I can’t emphasize enough how much it has lifted me and I sincerely mean this.

If you’d like to become a volunteer with In Great Company and make a senior’s life less lonely, you can do so here.