Alan and Mary from Mansfield

Mansfield couple Mary and Alan O’Leary are a great example of the volunteering spirit.

Thirteen years ago Mary became involved in meals on wheels when she was nearing the end of her working life in the banking industry.

Mary has a regular rostered day and also puts her hand up as an emergency back up, so ends up doing it a lot more often.I might be in the middle of shopping and the phone will ring. I go off and do meals and then come back and finish the shopping. Whatever I’m doing can wait. The meals can’t, she says.

Mary says that Meals on Wheels is about a lot more than just delivering food.I make sure I give everyone time for a chat. She says she also takes note of what’s going in the person’s home, making sure everything is all right. She also volunteers for the Guardian Angel Care Group, knitting jumpers and woollen hats for children in need.

After driving trucks for 35 years and then working on a farm for 15, Mary’s husband Alan retired. When Alan retired, he didn’t appreciate the impact stopping work would have on his outlook. Alan suddenly lost his purpose for getting out of bed in the morning. You need something to drive you, he says. And I lost that.

His doctor suggested getting back involved so Alan went back to casual work and started volunteering. He drives patients to appointments and drives the ‘Friday Bus’, transporting groups of people to shire organised events.

Mary and Alan often step in to help each other in these roles and they enjoy any opportunity to work together. They have seen a lot of changes in Mansfield over the years, but say no matter how much it grows and changes, it still retains its community-mindedness. Mansfield has every service you can think of, says Mary, and most of them are run by volunteers.