Sylvana Gibson is deeply passionate about her role as a Society volunteer.
“I had always been interested in Vinnies, so when I found out more about what they do and the people they help, I wanted to try and give back,” Sylvana explains.
“I can’t give money, but I can give time.”
Starting out at her local Vinnies Shop in Byron Bay late in 2020, Sylvana finds great fulfillment as a volunteer and the impact it makes for people experiencing hardship.
“We’ve got a big homeless population [in Byron], so when you start to get to know them, you can have a conversation about what their needs are.”
“The satisfaction of when they walk out the store, they’re a little bit happier than when they walked in – that really gets me.”
For Sylvana, another appeal of her role as volunteer shop manager lays in no two days being the same.
One moment can consist of overseeing stock and pricing items for sale, while the next involves sorting through donations and attending to customers.
What remains consistent each time she steps foot in the shop is the care all her fellow volunteers have for one another.
“We’re not just volunteers – we don’t go in because we have to – we do it because we want to.”
With the spread of the delta variant forcing all Vinnies Shops to close across New South Wales, Sylvana maintained contact with her fellow volunteers while gaining a permit to get the shop up and running following the easing of lockdown restrictions.
“I was a bit worried as some of our girls are a bit older, I’ve been messaging them to make sure that they’re ok.”
“We’ve had two of our older guys who’ve been unwell in hospital as well; we all keep in contact to make sure that everyone is ok, and that they know support is available.
“They’re all keen to come back and work – we’ve got a 94-year-old who is just itching to come back!”
Having experienced health troubles requiring extended stays in hospital previously, Sylvana has been heartened by the willingness of volunteers to get vaccinated in light of the higher risks faced by older members of the community.
“Nearly everybody’s had their second shot; it’s safety for the staff and my safety as well.”
“Everybody wants to get back in there because they want to help and are thinking of the homeless and other situations where people need Vinnies’ help.
“All the money goes to helping people, so the more we make the better it is.”