One quarter of Australia’s population volunteer their time to support others.
That’s six million people who are committed to improving the lives of others. Those six million make a world of difference – as do the 200 volunteers who support CatholicCare’s programs, clients and local communities.
Our 200 volunteers have, in the last 11 months, dedicated 11,000 hours of combined volunteer service across 16 of our programs. This has an estimated value of $350,000!
In celebration of this, and in acknowledgement of our volunteers, last week we held the 2019 Richard Stone Award. Ten amazing volunteers were nominated for their exceptional contribution – making for a very difficult task for the selection committee. But there could only be one recipient, and that was Sharon Maguire - who has served as a volunteer in the Melbourne Custody Centre Visitation Program for the last 18 years.
Photo: Sharon Maguire (second right) with family, Sr Mary O'Shannassy (second left, Director of Prison Ministry) and Paul Zammit (right, Senior Manager of Pastoral Services).
For 15 years of her service Sharon has coordinated the program, which involves monthly Saturday morning visitation of those in custody and contacting their families. Sharon coordinates a visitation roster of 12 volunteers, trains new volunteers and acts as a mentor to them all.
The custody centre is an inhospitable environment with little fresh air and sunlight, and many of those there are in the stages of withdrawing from alcohol or other drugs. In such a hostile environment, the dignity of the person is paramount to Sharon and her team.
Sharon brings the brightness of her personality and shows a genuine interest in each person, while providing a much needed listening ear.
‘Every time I have somebody ask me how was my weekend, I’ll say “Well I did a bit of painting, or I did Pilates, and I went to prison and visited people-” and they don’t want to know about the Pilates and the painting, they say “Prison? You went to prison?” And they always ask the same question – why? And I haven’t actually quite worked that out… but I know I do it, and I enjoy doing it,’ says Sharon.
‘I’d like to thank my wife, who listens to me do my calls every Saturday and has often done the calls to greet people herself… I’d like to thank Sister Mary O’Shannassy [Director of Prison Ministry] for her guidance and her wisdom… and I’d also like to thank the person who got me involved in all of this, which was a man called Michael Dailey, who on the 16th of June 2001 brought me to the custody centre. He then within a year would pass away - rest in peace - and at his funeral his wife stood up and spoke which I found an extraordinary thing that she could do. She said “the one thing he wanted was that you make a positive difference, every single one of you.” And I hope that’s what we do.’
We thank Sharon for an outstanding 18-year journey of selfless and caring service, and congratulate her on receiving this year’s Richard Stone Award!
We also congratulate the nine other nominated volunteers for their outstanding dedication, and we thank all of our volunteers for the world of difference they continue to make in the lives of others.
Read about all ten of the nominees for the 2019 Richard Stone Award here.
Photo: The ten volunteers nominated for the 2019 Richard Stone Award.