William Kelly is a truly inspirational individual. From a young age he expressed a strong desire to help those who are less fortunate. With his drive and energy, anything is possible. William is the Manager of a community based organisation, Gateway Social Support which provides programs for the elderly in Melbourne’s West (Spotswood). The mission of the organisation is to, “Actively promote community wellbeing through the provision of social support and interactive lifestyle programs that meet the needs of our diverse community.” This month the Community FoodLink Volunteer team won the 2012 Minister for Health Volunteer Awards.
What do you love the most about your job?
I love the fact that it’s all about supporting the community. The opportunities our programs deliver are broad and we provide a suite of services. I love my job as it really works well with my ethos around developing a stronger community. Personally, it is a very rewarding role as I see a direct benefit to the community on a daily basis. I genuinely can say I look forward to coming into work because Gateway’s an adventure and we have the opportunity to innovate and create.
What has your career pathway been?
I’ve worked most of my working career in community work. I worked with Wesley Mission for 10 years. I have also worked with employment services, a lot of community development programs and completed a degree in marketing.
What is the main purpose of Gateway?
Gateway’s core funding is from the Department Of Health and the programs are for social inclusion. We assist the elderly or disabled that are living at home independently to connect with the community and to be more active. We provide activities and social outings for the elderly such as taking them to the movies, markets and we have an arts/crafts program. We also have a Community FoodLink volunteer team. In partnership with donor agencies Coles, Safeway, FoodBank victoria, SecondBite, Baker’s Delight and Aussie Farmers Direct, Gateway’s Community FoodLink volunteers collect and distribute donated produce, which would otherwise be wasted. The volunteers distribute this to vulnerable and marginalised community members in the Western suburbs of Melbourne.
What change do you see in your clients?
If you’ve got clients who have had little social interaction, initially they are depressed and tired. Once they have experienced things they haven’t done in years such as going to the markets or movies, we see a massive transformation and it’s amazing to witness our clients gain a spark for life again.
What message do you have for the people considering participating in Gateway?
There’s a lot of issues associated with being on your own and not socialising. Once you start to become depressed you are less likely to socialise or connect with friends. That can send you on a spiral downwards and your health is affected. Eventually you might have to go in an aged care facility prematurely. The whole focus of Gateway is to allow people to stay at home longer and healthier that’s where they are happiest.
Do you have a volunteering background?
I began volunteering from a very young age. My family set up one of the very first migrant resource centres which was called Indochina Refugee Association. It was to house, educate, find training and employment for migrants. Every day and every weekend there were programs available to assist these families. The culture and the whole understanding of helping others and giving your time was entrenched into me from a young age.
As Gateway is a not-for-profit organisation, how many volunteers work there?
We have about 120 clients under our social support program and over 130 volunteers give their time on a weekly basis which translates to about 16,000 volunteer hours a year. There’s an amazing amount of goodwill out there. If you volunteer with Gateway, we want to provide you with some valuable work and we make sure that volunteers are given a safe work environment, adequate resources to do their job well and are well respected. For most people, the word thank you is a very powerful word.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
The most challenging part is identifying that there is a great need in the community for a range of services. The government can’t pay for everything and doesn’t have deep pockets and so we as an organisation have to be smart with the resources we have. We have to continue to ask people for support. You would be astounded by how willing organisations, companies and individuals are prepared to assist. We don’t go out and rattle tins, we want to say this is what we are doing in our community and if you are able to assist in some capacity that would be very much appreciated.
What are your goals?
My goal is to continue to strengthen our services. In the future we would like to relocate and have our own facility. We have outgrown where we are and certainly our goal is to have a centre where we can expand our programs within that facility. That’s our vision which we have and our staff are very much attuned with that.
Volunteers Janet, David, Kerry and Maria lending a hand at Gateway.