Double The Fun Volunteering Together

dad and daughter volunteering together

Father and daughter volunteering duo Peter Berry and Sherilyn Page

Story and photos by Julie Nance

Small business owner Sherilyn Page and her dad, retired public servant Peter Berry, have always been close. Volunteering together at the Blaxland Community Restaurant has deepened their relationship and brought joy to their guests and each other.


Key Points:

  • Volunteering Australia defines volunteering as “time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain”. The organisation’s 2021 study Evidence Insights: Volunteering and mental health reveals volunteering improves self-assessed psychological wellbeing, self-esteem, happiness, and satisfaction with life. The more hours you volunteer, the bigger the benefits.
  • Sherilyn and Peter have been volunteering together at the Community Restaurant since 2017. They say they gain far more than they contribute.
  • Restaurant guests cite the generosity of the volunteers, the great lunch, the positive and supportive atmosphere and the social interaction as some of the reasons they keep coming back.

Sherilyn and Peter were interviewed separately to gain their individual perspectives. Here’s what they had to say: 

SHERILYN:   

“Dad and I have always done lots of stuff together since I was little, including going to agricultural shows and fishing. Mum and I are just as close, but we enjoy different things: shopping together, having a cuppa and going to musicals, with our shared love of dance. With Dad, it has been the more outdoorsy stuff. We’ve always been close, so I think volunteering together has cemented that.

I started at the Restaurant before Dad who was a volunteer driver with Meals on Wheels for many years. When that role ended and a spot came up here for him, I knew it was going to be great fun. I volunteer every week and Dad is here once a fortnight, as is the case with most of the volunteers. He calls bingo, does the quiz questions and has great jokes. We always have a blast working together.

Everyone loves Dad, all the volunteers and clients. He’s very popular because he’s such a likable bloke. I see Mum and Dad a fair bit but it’s great finding out the family news each time we’re working together. It’s lovely to have a shared interest.

Community connections

The lunches are so valuable for people, particularly if they are living alone. Our clients can meet friends and we hear them organising their next week’s outing. Someone has heard about a bus trip, then they’ll tell their friends on the table and they might all end up going.  

For some people, coming to the Restaurant is their only outing in the week. They have a nutritious meal, good company and laughter.  

at Blaxland Community Restaurant

Lunch comrades Peter Stapleton, Jim Pope, John Marcusson and John Brown.

“I’ve been coming here with my wife for 15 years and we’ve volunteered for some of that time. We don’t have to think about what to eat, we don’t have to prepare a meal or wash up. We have good company.”  – Jim Pope

The value of giving back

Sherilyn: “Volunteering is honestly the best thing I’ve ever done. You feel very appreciated because you’re giving something back. It has also opened networks for me, for getting work. I’ve met so many people and I’ve gained a lot of my cleaning jobs through volunteering because people know people, who know people. It has been invaluable.  

And it’s good for you mentally. It gives you a sense of value. I don’t think I’d ever not volunteer now. It’s great for people’s minds and their longevity. A lot of volunteers, including at Gateway Family Services where I help with Christmas hampers, are well into their 80s and there are people in their 90s who are still volunteering. It’s good for the soul.”

The generous folk who make the Blaxland Community Restaurant a success celebrate a year of collaboration and fun. They transform an empty hall every time into a lovely dining experience.

PETER:

“Volunteering with Sherilyn is a father-daughter, building relationship type of thing because you see your daughter in a different light to normal family life. You gain new insights by working together in a collaborative way.

Sherilyn has an amazing gift of relating well to older people which is something my wife Helen and I have noticed for some time. It’s a gift, I think. She seems to easily slot into conversation with someone who might be 50 years older than her. And she’s patient and genuinely interested in how people are going with their health, their interests in life and what they might have done that week.

Fond memories

One of my earliest memories of doing things together with Sherilyn is fishing. She was a four-year-old with her little straw hat on. She had a real instant knack for it. I also remember making a fence once when she was really young, and I was drilling holes to put in the screws. It was her job to blow the sawdust out of the holes.

Colourful characters

You hear some of the most amazing stories about our guests’ lives; you could write a book. We’ve got a couple who have turned 100. There’s a lot more women than men, probably because women live longer.

I save all the newspaper trivia questions from the week and it’s amazing the breadth of knowledge some of our guests have. They struggle a bit, like I do, with modern movies and music but they are great with any of the historical stuff.

Sometimes the little kids from the preschool across the road come over and do some drawings and sing a song. It’s a bit like a mini version of the TV show Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds.

guests at blaxland community restaurant

Barbara Ellston and Margaret Pope enjoy the friendly and social atmosphere.

“When you live on your own it’s nice to have somewhere to enjoy community chatter and lunch. When you listen to other people and their challenges, it puts your own into perspective.”  – Barbara Ellston

Donating time

Peter: “Volunteering is a two-way process. It adds to the quality of life of our guests who come to the Restaurant and you’re contributing to that. But there’s a level of satisfaction that you’re giving to the community as well. We’re not out rescuing people from floods or in a fire truck in danger, but it’s a small contribution to the community.”

Peter hands cook Yung Yung Mitchell a thank you gift at the Christmas luncheon.


Take Action:

  • Blue Mountains Food Services has five community restaurants across the Blue Mountains, from Blaxland to Blackheath. At Blaxland you can enjoy a freshly prepared two-course meal from $10 in a friendly, social setting. Location: Sharon Burridge Hall, Lower Mountains Community Centre, Hope Street, Blaxland. Check out the details here. Phone 4759 2811 to book or for more information. ​Once you have booked, you can turn up as early as 10.30am to socialise. Bingo starts at 11.00am and lunch is at 11.45am. There’s lucky door prizes and a table of books to choose from. Transport can be arranged via Active Care Network (previously GREAT Community Transport) on 4722 3083.
  • If you are interested in volunteering with Blue Mountains Food Services in a community restaurant, Meals on Wheels or providing social support, phone 4759 2811 or visit here. Free training and support is offered.
  • Belong Blue Mountains also offers a range of opportunities for community members to volunteer to help others or be involved in community activities. Volunteers receive free training and are well supported. Find out more.

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This story has been produced as part of a Bioregional Collaboration for Planetary Health and is supported by the Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (DRRF). The DRRF is jointly funded by the Australian and New South Wales governments.


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About Julie Nance

Julie Nance is a community storyteller with the Blue Mountains Planetary Health Initiative. In her coverage of the Lower Mountains area, she brings 30 years’ experience in communications, publishing and journalism. After specialising in health and social issues as a journalist, Julie led creative teams in the government and not-for-profit sectors including the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, YMCA NSW, Cancer Council NSW and The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. Julie is passionate about empowering people with quality information to help them make informed choices.

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