IF YOU ever want anything done, ask a busy person.
It’s a statement that has never been truer than in the close-knit community that is Heathcote.
Being that it’s National Volunteer Week next week, we pulled one busy local aside to see what makes her want to volunteer her time and to hear about the plethora of activities and groups she’s involved in.
LARAINE Leask speaks about her work with such enthusiasm, and there are two things she keeps circling back to — her time working with Telstra and her volunteering with the CFA.
But she’s also the head of the Brownies and Girl Guides as well as being a member of the Red Cross and Heathcote Ambulance Auxiliary.
Yes, she has her fingers in a lot of pies around town but the born and bred Heathcoteian’s current claim to fame is being president of the District Two council for the CFA.
And the first female president of a district council too.
But she said it was a daunting task at first.
“When they first asked me I went into panic mode,” she laughed.
“But then it didn’t worry me. I thought, you can always quit and sometimes you don’t know you can do something until you try it.”
But she was well prepared for the role, holding the position of group secretary in the CFA throughout the changing of the boundaries from McIvor/Pyalong and Northern Hwy group — for 20 years.
Then a further 10 years as secretary for the Heathcote CFA and now, catering officer.
It’s a job which isn’t to be sneezed at; she keeps our men and women on the frontline fed. And of course she always has more than enough on hand in case there are a few extra mouths to feed.
“As long as I’m on the food watch people will get fed,” a very matter-of-fact Laraine said.
“At the accident in Axedale recently, I was called to organise food for the CFA and we ended up feeding the SES, police, CFA and VicRoads people.”
But she knows she can’t do it alone. In fact her philosophy is quite the opposite and thankfully so is the rest of the townspeople’s — which she’s seen firsthand.
“Another fire out at Mt Camel, I stopped in at the bakery and they didn’t have too much left as it was the end of the day,” she said.
“I don’t know why I went to Lorraine Speirs at the bowling club but I called her and everyone was there playing bowls that night.
“She said ‘right, let’s go to IGA and get some things’. We got back there and everyone stopped playing bowls and started buttering rolls and sandwiches.
“When you grow up in a small town everybody helps everybody. Most city people who come here may have never known their next door neighbour. But you can’t be a one man band.
“If you try and be a one man band, you’re going to fall. You could not do it unless you have a strong network.”
Yes, the CFA has kept her busy, which she remarks is something that doesn’t faze her. After working 20 years with Telstra she’s more than happy to keep working.
She had a job that took her all around Australia and the world training employees on new communications systems; it was a role that kept her on her toes.
“Mind you, when I started they said I would only need to know two systems, but we were working on about 15 by the end,” she exclaimed.
“I met some great people and if I ever had a day off I’d always go on a trip. Telstra had paid for me to get there so I thought I may as well make the most of it.”
But two decades gallivanting around the countryside was enough and Laraine decided to find something a little closer to home.
“After Telstra closed the Bendigo office they offered me a job in Melbourne but I wasn’t going to move, so I became the manager of the gift shop at Bendigo Health along with about 26 volunteers,” she said.
“They were wonderful people and I miss that — but we still manage to catch up about three times a year.”
Throughout all of her paid jobs, there was one she held that had the most bonuses. And they weren’t monetary.
She has been a Guide leader for 54 years and she said she’s seen some changes in her time.
“I enjoy working with the CFA but working with the girls is great. You get to watch them grow and some that I had are mothers or grandmothers now, it’s a bit strange,” she laughed.
“The kids are funny, some of the things they say.’’
Throughout her years of experience — and our 45 minute conversation — there’s one more thing Laraine keeps coming back to.
Both personally and professionally, Laraine said networking was an essential skill for everyone to have.
“It’s important to know people, if the person you call doesn’t know, chances are they can give you the number of someone who will,” she laughed, speaking from experience.
“The Lions look after us, volunteering is all about the community working together and each group can offer something different. Each person can offer something different.
“You’d be surprised who can do what, they might not think much of it but everyone has something to offer and something they’re good at.”
But she has some advice from juggling her various roles over the years.
“The hardest thing to do is say no, but you have to sometimes, you can’t spread yourself too thin,” she said.
“Volunteering is just a natural thing you do in a small town.
“But I like the roles I do; volunteering is something where you only give back what’s given to you. I have no problem sitting out on the street selling raffle tickets.”