Focus on a Volunteer: Annette Collins

Annette and Doug Collins: 30 or so friends held a 70th birthday surprise party for Annette at Phil Rogers Park Image John Missen

Annette and Doug Collins: 30 or so friends held a 70th birthday surprise party for Annette at Phil Rogers Park Image John Missen

Annette Collins describes herself as not a movie or book person, and not a shopaholic. The inspiring Over 60’s member just celebrated her 70th birthday.  I called Annette to ask if she would mind filling in the volunteer survey for the paper. Instead we chatted through the questions, Annette had me laughing and (unbeknownst to her at the time, I hope) tears welling.

by Michelle Gilmore

I can’t remember if I met Annette at The Tents Summer Holiday program (remember the big tent near the Sports Club?), or if it was when she brought morning tea and a ready smile to a playgroup on Mother’s Day eleven years ago.

From sourcing items for the Op Shop “Fancy That” in Gympie, to working in the Church of the Good Shepherd or its garden and supporting the school chaplaincy program, Annette is a busy lady.

I think it is I just love helping and serving other people.

“I do get overwhelmed by what you can’t do – but remember that helping a little bit sometimes goes a long way.”

The retired teacher has lived at Green Valley Drive for 32 years. “But we have had the holiday house for 43 years, when there was bush on our back fence line.”

With her husband Doug, they would travel from the Sunshine Coast to Rainbow Beach every weekend and holiday, “Our children don’t know any other place to holiday really”.

Volunteering was a way of life – she was on the P&C at Cooroy and Kin Kin schools and the Church Auxiliary, and even on the Steering Committee when the (Rainbow Beach) school was coming.

A highlight of her volunteer roles was when her eldest son and daughter played badminton for the state, as Queensland Team Manager she travelled with them to Hobart and Perth.

“In amongst having four kids, I played sport myself and did supply teaching and the volunteer sort of thing.

“Some days I would go to Gympie –  play tennis all day, do the shopping, then rush tea for all of us so I could be at the P&C meeting at 7pm ! How on earth did we do it all? I am just worn out thinking about it!”

Annette said she would play tennis, night and day, and she also loved Tai Chi. Now gardening and boating fill her hours – she and Doug are looking forward to boating in the Whitsundays again this year.

I asked what her favourite spot on the coast was. She replied, “Being on the water, the headwaters of some of the creeks, all the little creeks on a high tide – that’s why we’ve been here for so long. It’s a really beautiful part of the world.

“But the Sandblow on a beautiful, clear day – that has to be pick of the places.”

When I chatted to Annette, she had a busy week of medical appointments, but assured me it was just “wear and tear” compared to her living with cancer, and radiation therapy in 2008-2009.

I love this town – I was completely overwhelmed with love and support. I lost all my hair – all the things ladies do when they have breast cancer…”

“It sits in your heart that people are so wonderful, I was humbled. It’s hard to sit back and receive it yourself.”

She confesses that her first love is family, and her “precious” grandkids. She reassures me though that they are very “normal” and says they’re not all little saints! “But they keep me out of mischief  and I love them to bits.”

Annette definitely doesn’t take them for granted.

“I do really treasure time with family. Having lost a son unexpectedly, I’ve always treasured them but not as much as I do now.

“I lost parents and grandparents, I had to go through that – but when you lose a child, even if they are grown up, it is completely different.

“It has been so difficult, you don’t just pick yourself up. Just recently we attended a big family get together – as we passed the cemetery… We both still struggle.”

Her philosophy is to treat other people with kindness, you never what they are going through.

And her thoughts on volunteering?

“Life isn’t just about yourself. Because the joy in helping others and being with other people goes round in a circle, and comes back to you. Good for everyone all round.”

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