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Brisbane thanks over 500 volunteers
06 December 2004

Brisbane: Two-day-old Kleo Isaac doesn't appreciate the efforts of the woman sitting beside her at Mater Mothers' Hospital in Brisbane.

But Valerie Simpson has already made a huge impact on the newborn's life.

One of more than 500 volunteers at the Mater, Ms Simpson gives up about four hours of her time every week to take part in fund-raising activities for the hospital.

Today marks International Volunteer Day, which celebrates the efforts of millions of people like Valerie Simpson around the world.

Every year, an estimated 4.5 million Australians donate more than 704 million essential hours to help the needy, homeless and sick.

They nurse premature babies, drive patients to hospital appointments, teach English to refugees, feed the homeless and perform countless other good works.

It is estimated volunteers at the Mater contribute about 55,000 hours a year, saving the hospital about $1 million.

By selling to parents gold-embossed cards of their newborn's footprint, Ms Simpson has helped buy airconditioning, furniture and other "extras" the hospital's budget wouldn't otherwise cover.

"I just think it's a lovely thing to do and it's a great way of meeting people," said Ms Simpson, 60, of Graceville in Brisbane.

"It's nice to know that you're making a difference.

"But I do like the little babies, too.

"We've managed to buy things for the ward which help make the mums more comfortable."

And volunteers are not only people who have time to burn. Many have full-time jobs and manage to squeeze their community work into already jam-packed diaries.

The volunteers co-ordinator at the Mater, Susan Bunning, said the hospital "couldn't run" without them.

"Most of them actually have full schedules, but still manage to give up their time," she said. "They don't do it for the recognition, only to help others.

"With nursing staff already stretched, volunteers perform many vital functions."

From: The Sunday Mail