Community Transport now servicing Tweed & Banora Point

Volunteer Profile: Rick Smith

Volunteering Gold Coast’s (VGC) journey started with humble beginnings in 1998. As the only Volunteer Resource Centre (VRC) on the Gold Coast, VGC advertised volunteer positions and provided face to face interviews and volunteer placements for many Not-For-Profits on the Gold Coast. Four years later in 2002, VGC introduced a community transport service, driven by volunteer drivers, commuting individuals over the age of 65 to their medical appointments, shopping trips, social outings and more. Today in 2022, VGC is standing strong and is celebrating the incredible milestone of servicing their 50,000th assisted volunteer.

During National Volunteer Week 16 – 22 May 2022, Volunteering Gold Coast will be showcasing, acknowledging and celebrating the thousands of Volunteers right here on the Gold Coast’s doorstep, who have risen to the occasion through such trying times, banding together and helping where needed.

Meet Rick Smith – Volunteering Gold Coast’s 50,000 th assisted volunteer. What motivates Rick to want to help others?  

What inspired you to volunteer?

It wasn’t inspiration but more like a light bulb moment. I realised I have been lucky in life, albeit with ups and downs like everybody. I found myself with the time to give back so thought I would take the opportunity in a more structured sense. I’m a volunteer driver and have also been involved with the VGC team at Lismore. Driving teams down on the weekends, helping with the cleaning and hopefully making a difference. I also volunteer at Orange Sky.

How long have you been volunteering?

I originally started volunteering in 2000 when a friend suggested I join the Board of the Gold Coast Project for Homeless Youth. Having young kids of my own at the time the decision was a no brainer. Unfortunately, shortly afterwards my job involved travelling internationally which meant I was unable to commit.  to the position deserved. Prior to that, I used to attend my children’s primary school and sit in on classes, reading to groups of students. I also helped run my kid’s junior touch football competition at Burleigh Bears. In more recent times I joined VGC and Orange Sky.

How old were you when you first volunteered?

How old was I … hmm, in dog years or human years? Probably in my late 30’s to early 40’s. I was fortunate in that my work opportunities from 2000 onwards provided quite flexible hours.

What do you volunteer in? Please list here:

I currently volunteer with Volunteering Gold Coast and Orange Sky.  VGC is my primary volunteering choice as a driver one day a week, occasionally two. I have also participated in flood relief efforts primarily in Lismore and also Murwillumbah.

I receive the Volunteering Gold Coast e-newsletters that list opportunities and one-off events such as Blues on Broadbeach, the Gold Coast Show, the Country Music Festival and the GC50 Fun Run. Being a social person, I thoroughly enjoy the events and meeting new people.

Orange Sky is a charity on the Gold Coast that have a van fitted out with washing machines and dryers, a shower and a waste tank. Their new van actually runs off solar panels.

Orange Sky provides a platform for everyday Australians to connect through a regular laundry and shower service. Creating a safe and supportive environment for people who are too often ignored or who feel disconnected from the community.

We all have set locations and times to provide services for the homeless. There are some heartbreaking stories from a huge variety of homeless people. It is very humbling to witness the genuine thanks from the people we help. This is what inspires me to help more and is definitely a common denominator with all the various volunteering that I do.

Who influences you on your journey and why?

There isn’t anyone particular person, more so a generalised group of nice people who influence me. People who are good people on the inside have always appealed to me.

While born in Brisbane I actually grew up in New Guinea for my first 8 years. These were formative, learning years. In hindsight, I was so lucky to grow up in this environment. A multicultural community where everybody was equal, with minimal fuss. My childhood consisted of trekking and camping in the bush and appreciating nature. There wasn’t any peer pressure, or perhaps I was too thick-skinned to notice it at the time. Nor the distraction of the internet, social media and so on.

Are there any standout moments for you when volunteering in Lismore with Volunteering Gold Coast?

There certainly has been. The humility and the genuine thanks of those we have helped in Lismore despite the wide devastation are first and foremost. The efforts of Resilient Lismore who coordinate volunteer jobs in an easy to navigate process are a huge standout.

The volunteer teams have worked so effortlessly together. We all have come from different backgrounds, from all ages, with various capacities to help in so many ways. Which is what volunteering is all about.

Everybody has been extremely considerate of others. Especially in cases when our team have had to move on to the next job with work still to be done. The individuals have understood that there are others who also need help.

I received a beautiful message one Saturday evening after returning from a day in Lismore from a Lismore resident.

“Hi Rick, I just want you to know how much we appreciate what you have done for us and for others in our community. We will get through the challenges and it is people like you and your team that are providing us with the incentive to see past the devastation and look towards a new beginning with the assistance of good people. Thank you.” Lismore resident.

This thoughtful message made me teary-eyed and grateful for what I had been able to do.

What drives you to continue with your volunteering?

I find the driving (no pun intended), and the Orange Sky shifts enjoyable and rewarding. I meet lovely people who I am able to help, and I enjoy meeting other like-minded people whom we all chip in and help out in the community. I always get a buzz from helping others, whether it be my neighbours, friends or strangers and I enjoy putting others first.

I do like to mix up my volunteering a bit. The one-off events and the Lismore flood relief efforts are the perfect examples of mixing things up a little to keep things fresh and recharge the batteries.

What do you gain from volunteering?
I find helping others to be rewarding. My view is that life is based on swings and roundabouts and that one day I may be the person needing the help.

If you could summarise your volunteering experience in one word what would it be?

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