• Volunteers the heart of private hospitals

    Volunteers are the beating heart of any private hospital, and St Andrew’s Hospital Toowoomba is no exception.

    The hospital has celebrated National Volunteers Week by highlighting two special people who contribute so much to the staff, patients and visitors.

    Jan Saunders started volunteering at the hospital in 1966 as part of the “flower roster” and it’s a job she still enjoys today.

    Three days a week – Monday, Wednesday and Friday – a group of dedicated volunteers join the flower roster, keeping bouquets throughout St Andrew’s fresh and vibrant.

    The flower roster was originally part of the St Andrew’s Toowoomba Hospital Women’s Auxiliary, which began in 1965.

    There was an average attendance of 45 ladies at monthly meetings held at St Andrews Church in West Street, who were kept busy sewing a variety of items for the hospital before it opened, including surgical linen, bed screens, sheets, covers, nurses aprons and service totes.

    Toowoomba butcher, Max Wilkins, first began working with the hospital in the 1960s.

    “My first order to take meat to the hospital was in 1966, when I delivered one and a half pounds of steak to the matron,” he said.

    “The hospital would give me a meat order a week in advance for daily deliveries of beef, lamb or pork.”

    Max continued to deliver meat to the hospital for the next 25 years. Then in 2009, he received a call from the Freemasons, who were looking for a volunteer driver at the hospital.

    Up to 20 local businesses had clubbed together to buy a golf buggy, which would ferry patients and visitors between the hospital and surrounding car parks.

    Max volunteered to dive the buggy for the hospital and did so until 2018, when ill health forced him to retire.

    St Andrews Hospital Toowoomba CEO, Ray Fairweather, said volunteers were at the core of what made their organisation special.

    “They bring community ownership, skills and enthusiasm to everything they do,” he said.

    “Being a volunteer can be tremendously rewarding, it allows you to meet new people, discover new interests and gives you a satisfaction in knowing that you are helping others.

    “They say that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”