The benefits of volunteering at the Guide Dogs Queensland Bundaberg Op Shop is something local resident Helen Willett is passionate about.
Helen is visually impaired and, along with her Guide Dog Hank, volunteers once a week to give back to the charity that has provided her so much support over time.
It's a job she has been doing for seven years and one Helen said she absolutely loved due to the people she got to meet and work with every week.
“I have been volunteering for about seven years and I work one day a week on a Thursday, my Hank comes in and assists by sitting out the back, watching everything and keeping an eye on us all,” she said.
“I enjoy working here because I have made a lot of friends, we are like a little family.”
Helen lost her vision due to multiple complications with macula degeneration, glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa and Charles bonnet syndrome.
“With losing my vision I had to leave work and then through Guide Dogs I had white cane training so I could get around,” she said.
“Then, when I moved to Queensland, I got adaptive technology that helps me get around, as well as Hank.”
Helen is one of 20 volunteers currently assisting the op shop but there are more people needed to keep the operations running smoothly.
She said having Hank by her side had allowed her to take up the opportunity of volunteering, which had in turn allowed her to regain some of her independence.
“Hank is one of the reasons why I volunteer here,” Helen said.
“With him by my side, I can now catch the bus to the op shop as well as do many other things like go for a walk, go to town and more.”
Helen said 90 per cent of the money raised at the Bundaberg Op Shop went towards the training of dogs just like Hank, which is why she was so passionate about her volunteering position.
“There is nothing Hank can't do,” she said.
“He can find the mailbox, he helps with the washing and I even go to dancing twice a week and he sits there patiently waiting for me to finish.
“He has given me my independence.”
Volunteers needed to keep op shop going
Guide Dogs Queensland Bundaberg Op Shop retail manager Nerida Hepple said there were plenty of volunteer opportunities available at the local store.
“Our op shop is purely run by volunteers and we need plenty of them because it is quite a big place,” Nerida said.
“At the moment we need about 10 more volunteers in areas including front counter, retail, warehouse and delivery drivers.”
Nerida said volunteers were the backbone of the Guide Dogs Queensland Op Shop and the sole reason why the local charity had been able to operate for 14 years in the region.
“Our volunteers are why we can do what we do,” she said.
“They are essential to us and not only do we love their help, they love coming here.
“Volunteering at the op shop is not only an opportunity to make new friends, it's also an opportunity to make a difference to those with vision impairment with funds raised going towards the training of the guide dogs and much more.”
If you have five hours to spare each week, contact the team at the Guide Dogs Queensland Bundaberg Op Shop 4331 5000 and apply for a volunteer position today.
The op shop is situated at 15 MacLean Street, Bundaberg South.