Congratulations to In Great Company’s volunteer Jacky Wilkosz, who won the 2022 Feros Care Volunteer of the Year Award!
Jacky Wilkosz is a beautiful example of what it is to be a community visitor volunteer who is genuinely passionate about helping lonely older people feel more connected, valued and appreciated. She quietly goes above and beyond her role, to truly
impact the lives of those she visits.
Jacky joined In Great Company in February 2021 and was matched with 2 lovely ladies, visiting Carole in Ballina and Diane in Tweed Heads every fortnight. Jacky lives in Byron Bay, so both are a minimum half an hour drive.
For Jacky, volunteering for In Great Company is not a duty she fulfills a couple of hours each week, her matches are companions that
she cares deeply about.
From board games to emergency help
With Carole, Jacky worked out that board games would be the way to build her confidence and as Carole was reticent to have visitors at home, Jacky arranged with a local hotel to allow them to play board games there, long after lunch service was
over, until trust was built.
Jacky tells us that Carole now feels like they were friends in another life and with no family close by, Jacky has become a light in her life.
In the most moving example, we learned of Jacky’s efforts to find and support Carole during the recent floods in Northern NSW. She heard on the radio that the village Carole lived in had been flooded, and without a way of contacting her, Jacky hopped
into her car to find Carole. When she got there, she discovered Carole had been evacuated to Lennox Head where Jacky eventually tracked her down. Without any other friends or family to care about her, naturally Carole had been distraught.
So with more floods forecast, Jacky and her husband decided they needed to help Carole create an evacuation plan. The first was to help her buy a mobile phone so they could reach each other easily, teach Carole how to use it and continue calling one
another to practice. The second was to offer Carole a room in their home should a major flood event happen a second time and there was nowhere else to go. Wanting Carole to feel comfortable, Jacky invited her to her home so that Carole could
see her “room”.
A tearful Carole expressed her gratitude, and fear of being a burden. “Why would anyone do all this for me”?
Jacky exemplifies that “to give is to receive”. She explained to Carole that having lost her mother as a young girl, Carole was giving Jacky the chance to care for an older woman in the way she had wanted to for her mother, and that
it was she who was benefiting and grateful to Carole for that chance. Jacky said, “we are true friends Carole”.
True friendship goes both ways
With Jacky’s other client Diane, their visits feature long chats near the beach, coffee or fish and chips in the park. On occasion, Diane’s dog Peggy also joins them for a catch up. Diane was initially very withdrawn, and so it took
a while for their friendship to develop.
During the COVID lockdowns, they would have long phone calls and text one another a lot. This has now moved on to Diane driving to meet Jacky at different venues in the community. She even initiates ideas for where to go, working on a goal for Diane to venture
out even further until one day she will drive all the way to Jacky’s home in Byron. A big moment for them was before Jacky was about to leave for a holiday, Diane said how much their friendship meant to her, and how Jacky was very dear
All these examples prove that Jacky is well-deserving of every volunteer award there is – she exemplifies what it means to serve your community, and she does so with a wonderful smile on her face.