LOCAL HEROES: Volunteers spread community spirit in Western Downs.
LOCAL HEROES: Volunteers spread community spirit in Western Downs. Meg Gannon

Western Downs volunteers highlighted

THEY are the fabric of our communities, the lifeblood of our towns: our volunteers.

To mark National Volunteer Week, we spoke to some of our community's most dedicated vollies.

Madi Kenna

Lover of words embracing words of wisdom

Madi Kenna volunteers at the Dalby Library
Madi Kenna volunteers at the Dalby Library Meg Gannon

A FASCINATION with numbers and a willingness to give back to others is what inspired Madi Kenna, 16, to volunteer at the Dalby Library.

When her family moved to Dalby from Toowoomba, Madi, who has autism, wanted to become a part of this community in whatever way she could.

She said helping at the library was comforting for her and described volunteering as a form of community service.

"I can be helping people around me,” Madi said.

"It's very fulfilling to know that I can help those people.

"It's really lovely.”

Madi herself doesn't read "normal books”; she prefers comics for their visuals.

Despite only living in Dalby for a short time, Madi has embedded herself in the fabric of this town through her volunteer work, and said she loved being a Dalby resident.

"The whole region is amazing,” she said.

"In cities and metropolitan areas, it's not as common that people go to a library - it's not as normal.

"But here it seems to be a centre and I've met so many cool people.”

Despite studying through the Brisbane School of Distance Education, Madi said she always finds time to put in hours of work at the library.

One day, she hopes to turn her volunteer efforts into a job at, but for now she can appreciate how important volunteering is for regional communities.

"When you volunteer you're not doing it for the money, you're doing it because you genuinely love what you're doing,” she said.

"And I think that is a very vital part of our community.

"Without it, it would be very devastating.”

Megan Baker

Volunteer calls for more girl power in brigade

Megan Baker in Dalby's Rural Heritage Street Parade
Megan Baker in Dalby's Rural Heritage Street Parade Shannon Hardy

MEGAN Baker has been putting on the bright yellow uniform at Braemar Rural Fire Brigade for almost seven years now.

The volunteer firefighter spoke to The Dalby Herald about her time in the brigade and encouraged more females to sign up and help protect the community.

"I would love to see more women give it a go, I've enjoyed it more than I ever thought I would,” Mrs Baker said.

"I've had some experiences that I wouldn't have otherwise had and met some fantastic people that I wouldn't have otherwise known and I get that sense of being part of a team, something bigger than myself.”

"Give it a go, it doesn't cost anything, throw your hat in the ring and try it out.”

Mrs Baker and her husband David joined the brigade after a controlled burn on their property introduced them to the local crew.

Mrs Baker is now a senior firefighter and the brigade's treasurer/secretary.

"It's personally rewarding, you get a sense of satisfaction and achievement from what you do, but for me it's more about what can be achieved in a community for everyone's benefit,” she said.

"Knowing you're assisting others and doing something constructive for the community you live in, that's what keeps me going.

Soroor Allen

Volunteering big part of gap year

Volunteering at Dalby Library has given Soroor Allen the chance to meet many local residents and she is impressed with what she has seen.
Volunteering at Dalby Library has given Soroor Allen the chance to meet many local residents and she is impressed with what she has seen. Meg Gannon

FOR Soroor Allen, no two days are the same.

Mrs Allen moved to Dalby from the Atherton Tablelands in November last year, after making the decision to take a "gap year” from work.

The former real estate sales consultant worked full time for 25 years and juggled being a full-time mum to three boys before she decided to give herself a break.

"Although I liked my job, this year I wanted to do everything that I wanted to do,” she said.

"But I don't like to be idle; I like to be useful, I like to be helpful and volunteering is one of those things.”

Still wanting to make her mark and contribute something to the community, she chose to volunteer at Dalby Library, rather than sitting by during her year off.

"All my life I've always wanted to do some kind of community service,” Mrs Allen said.

"This year I've taken a year off so I can do something or be helpful somewhere.”

With her children out of home and nothing holding her back, Mrs Allen said

she finally had some freedom to explore other places and take opportunities beyond what she had done before, including volunteering.

"Now my kids have grown and I've got grandkids, and they all have their own lives and jobs,” she said. "So I'm free to do what I want to do.”

Despite only living in Dalby for six months, Mrs Allen has been overwhelmed by the kindness of the residents - particularly those who come through the library.

"I'm just so impressed with the people I work with and the clients that come into the library,” she said.

"I'm learning so much every day.

"I feel useful, and fulfilled, and I'm doing something for the community.

"It gives me a lot of pleasure.”

As someone who has always contributed to her community in some way, Mrs Allen said volunteering was her way of giving back, and being grateful for what she has.

"I've been so blessed in my life with so many wonderful things and I always wanted to do some service,” she said.

Tanya Wittmann

Community support means the most

Tanya Wittmann is a proud volunteer with the Dalby SES. Pictured with fellow volunteers Troy Drew and Brandon-Lee Wittmann
Tanya Wittmann is a proud volunteer with the Dalby SES. Pictured with fellow volunteers Troy Drew and Brandon-Lee Wittmann Contributed

FOR Tanya Wittmann, being an SES volunteer means supporting her community and gaining skills she never thought she would have.

After spending six years volunteering with the Dalby branch, Ms Wittmann said the most rewarding part of her SES experience has been realising just how much she is capable of.

"I'm a girl just like any other girl and being able to get qualifications to do height safety or to operate a chainsaw is not the type of thing I thought I would have the skill or ability to do,” she said.

"They just push you to better yourself ... It's pretty full on but it's definitely rewarding.”

Ms Wittmann got involved with the SES through her friends and hasn't looked back since.

"We've got an amazing support out here in Dalby and it's just great to be able to give back to such helpful people.”

Ms Wittmann said the best part about being a volunteer is seeing the community support and appreciate their work.

"I love when we go to a community event and we're always getting cheered on and told

we're doing an amazing job, it's just the drive we need to keep moving,” she said.

Ms Wittmann is the deputy leader for the Dalby unit and encourages the community to get involved and get behind our volunteers.

"There's a job for everyone within the SES, no matter how much or how little you can put in, there's always somewhere we can place you,” she said.

"In the event of a natural disaster, there is far too much influx on the paid personnel to get help to everyone where it's needed in time.

"I like the fact that we've got a volunteer network here in our local area that can be called on to be able to assist in those instances.”

Beth Wood

Long-time volunteer welcomes new cultures to town

Grace Turner and Beth Wood with a lantern for the Delicious and Delightful lantern parade last year.
Grace Turner and Beth Wood with a lantern for the Delicious and Delightful lantern parade last year. Michael Doyle

A WARM welcome is what Beth Wood is passionate about providing through her volunteer work.

Mrs Wood has been volunteering for the Dalby Welcoming Community since it was established in 2008 when jobs in the resource sector brought a diverse range of people to the area.

Since then the DWC has become an important part of the community, organising Dalby's Delicious and Delightful festival each year.

The DWC also supports 15 people into work each year through the Skilling Workers for Queensland program, they run the Billy Can Art project and apply for grants to improve aspects of the town.

Mrs Wood has been living in Dalby for about 40 years and has seen the community develop over the years, especially since the Welcoming Community has been around.

"Our community now really welcomes people from diverse groups and diverse cultures, we are a community that really engages and we are a great community in which to live,” Mrs Wood said.

"It makes me feel very proud to be from Dalby, and to be part of that process of welcoming people for me is a real privilege.

"When people talk about what's special about Dalby ... it's the people that make the difference and I certainly believe that that's really true.”

In over 10 years of volunteering, Mrs Wood's highlights include the Myall Creek precinct upgrade in 2011 and the Delicious and Delightful Festival each year.

"Being able to see the lantern parade at Dalby's Delicious and Delightful festival last year and see 800 children with their parents and grandparents and aunties and uncles carrying their lanterns in the lantern parade, that makes you very proud to be part of such a community,” she said.

Mrs Wood said she has enjoyed helping others and making social connections while volunteering.

"For me it's about making a difference in people's lives.”

Deanna Searle

No signs of stopping her duties just yet

Dianne Searle is welcoming visitors at the Information Centre.
Dianne Searle is welcoming visitors at the Information Centre. Meg Gannon

DIANNE Searle has volunteered for more than 40 years and is showing no signs of slowing or stopping.

From LifeFlight to Meals on Wheels and now

Dalby's Information Centre, Ms Searle has a wealth of experience in giving back to the community she loves.

Her desire to volunteer at the information centre began with a love of exploring and adventure.

"We've travelled a lot and I like meeting people,” she said.

Ms Searle said she enjoys passing on her knowledge of the region and the country to visitors who come to Dalby to experience the country lifestyle.

"Most travellers are lovely,” she said.

"Travellers from overseas are interesting. We get a few of those and we get backpackers, and people from New Zealand and Tasmania.”

Ms Searle has lived in Dalby for 45 years and said her favourite thing about Dalby was its location among other country towns, and the people.

"You can get mostly nearly everything you need, and if you can't you just go 45 minutes to Toowoomba,” she said.

"The people are friendly; the country people are lovely and friendly.”

Having volunteered for so much of her life, Ms Searle knows exactly how important volunteers are to small towns like Dalby.

"I think it's great for the community,” she said.

"It brings people together, and we can give back to the community.”



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