Hometown Heroes: Retired nurse Patricia has volunteered for 30 years and says 'you get as much as you give'

Hometown Heroes: Retired nurse Patricia has volunteered for 30 years and says 'you get as much as you give'

Following a few years with the local Bishopstown Community Association, Pat was recruited to the Meal on Wheels initiative and hasn’t looked back since.

AFTER 30 years as a volunteer and 25 years with Meals on Wheels, retired nurse Patricia Harrington is a key asset to the Bishopstown community.

Originally getting involved in her community was a way of passing the time after she had to retire from the health service due to a health issue, Patricia (Pat) quickly realised the importance of volunteering in her community and the need for the services the local Community Association provide.

Following a few years with the local Bishopstown Community Association, Pat was recruited to the Meal on Wheels initiative and hasn’t looked back since.

“I used to work long days, I was quite young when I retired and I was used to being busy.

“My kids were in school and my husband was working. A big thing I missed was the company.”

Once she was involved in the Community Association, Pat said she began to see the true impact of the work that was being done.

“A lot of people aren’t aware of all the things that we do. The real extent of the services we provide is lost on most people.”

Pat said she gives an average of 20 hours a week to volunteering and helping in her local community.

“It probably drives my husband mad at times, but they recognise the importance of the work that I do.

My children are all grown up now, but they are used to it too.”

'You get as much as you give'

In terms of volunteering, Pat said you get as much as you give.

“It is not always a case of giving, you get back as well, it has saved my sanity at times. I’m a get up and go person and I wanted to be busy.” Pat said Bishopstown has been an aging area for some years and there are a lot of people who are living alone.

“Meals on Wheels is very much a needed service.

Patricia Harrington has been volunteering for 30 years. 
Patricia Harrington has been volunteering for 30 years. 

“It helps a lot of people to maintain their independence and stay in their homes longer. It can relieve stress for some people, so they don’t have to worry about cooking, or doing the shopping, it takes the pressure off them.”

Pat also said the delivery drivers are a welcome point of contact and an interaction that the clients would otherwise go without.

“We used to deliver five days a week, now, since Covid, we deliver twice a week and the driver can see that the clients are safe and well.” Pat said there were so many stories she could tell from her time as a volunteer.

“Many things have happened over the years that have brought great joy and sadness. Volunteering, especially with Meals on Wheels, you meet and make friends with lots of people, you also lose a lot of these friends and people over time.

Lots of funny strange things happen but may be best left where they happened.”

Pat said they have sometimes found people unconscious or in need of help and have intervened.

“Sometimes you do lose people and that can hurt, but that is the nature of it. I can be a tough old turkey at times.”

Impact of Covid 

Since Covid, the Bishopstown Meals on Wheels have not been cooking in their kitchen, but instead buying in meals that they deliver to the clients.

The service reaches more than 50 people on a weekly basis and provides meals that are liked by the clients, such as corned beef, roast beef, fish pie, cottage pie, fish and turkey and ham and Pat would like to thank all the volunteers who help out.

“The meals are all served with potatoes and two vegetables and the odd time people drop in treats to pass on and they get a great kick out of that.”

Recently Tesco put together a goodie bag for the clients, which included hand sanitiser, cup-a-soup and biscuits. When there is a big birthday or an occasion the service tries to get involved with a cake or something to mark the milestone.

While Covid has made things a little more complicated in terms of buying in meals, Pat said the pandemic forced the service to rethink their methods which has resulted in some improvements.

“We have better contact with the families of the older people we deliver to.” Bishopstown Meals on Wheels now offers a digital bank transfer option for people to pay for their subsidised meals.

“We had to rethink the procedures when the pandemic hit and there have been some improvements,” Pat said. “I think it is safer now.”

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