The Heroes Behind Playgroup NSW: Playgroup Volunteer Stories

It’s National Volunteer Week! Let’s give a shout out to our volunteers here at Playgroup NSW.

This week it’s all about you, our lovely volunteers. We want to celebrate and thank you for all the hard work you put into making community playgroups all over NSW a blast for children and a supportive environment for parents.

Volunteers don’t necessarily have the time; they have the heart.
Elizabeth Andrews

Volunteers are such a big part of everything that happens at our playgroups. We consider ourselves privileged to work together with our volunteers in organising playgroups for children, parents and carers throughout all NSW. We couldn’t have done it without our volunteers’ kind hearts and dedication..

We’ve seen it firsthand what a few small acts of kindness can accomplish. And we want to share some of our volunteers’ stories with you.

We recently asked our volunteer community playgroup committee members, to share their feelings or observations about why they volunteer and how they feel it benefits others. Following are a few of their stories:

Holly Pender, Volunteer Coordinator at Merrylands Garden Playgroup

Holly started volunteering with Merrylands Garden Playgroup as a coordinator a while ago. She is a mum of three girls, all under the age of three, including nine-month old twins. Playgroup is a regular part of their weekly routine.

Holly confesses that when she started volunteering she didn’t exactly have an accurate idea of how much positive impact her actions could have for others. This was up until recently, when she had an interesting conversation with another mum who joined playgroup with her children.

“She told me she just moved in the area,” Holly says. “She confessed playgroup was her only interaction with other parents during the day until her husband gets home from work.” She adds, “I’m grateful for having had that moment with that mum. It made me realise you may never know the difference you’ve made in another person’s life. But that doesn’t mean you are not making a difference.”

Kellie Darley, Volunteer Day Leader at West Ryde Wombats Playgroup

Kellie Darley joined West Ryde Wombats Playgroup shortly after moving to the area. Back then, she had an active 16-month-old and was 36 weeks pregnant with her second child.

She confides that, “this playgroup has kept me sane in those early months of settling into a new area and surviving life with two toddlers”.

At the end of that year, most of the attending families left the playgroup. Kellie remembers that, “The thought of playgroup closing down saddened me. It had helped me so much! So I decided to take on the day leader role. It was an additional responsibility on top of my 4-month-old and my 21-month-old.”

Kellie admits the first months were crazy, “with so many new members to welcome and my two little ones still needing a lot of attention.”

But over time, slowly, they’ve built a lovely small community. They now have a strong group of regularly attending families. “Now, my kids happily play without me during most playgroup sessions. I have time to enjoy catching up with the mums, dads and grandparents attending and playing with the children,” she adds.

Kellie Darley has been the Monday day leader of West Ryde Wombats Playgroup for over two years now. She has recently taken on the coordinator role.

She understands how parenthood can be a very isolating experience. “I love being able to connect with families and create our own little village,” she confesses, “where we help each other out on this (sometimes crazy) parenting journey.”

Michelle, an emotional care provider for the residents at St Mary’s Villa and Playgroup NSW volunteer

Michelle Reynolds is a big part of the St Mary’s Villa Intergenerational Playgroup. She is in charge of the spiritual and emotional well-being of the residents at St Mary’s Villa in Concord.

In March 2017, Michelle expanded her role as a volunteer working with Playgroup NSW on the Intergenerational Playgroup at St Mary’s Villa.

Her idea for an intergenerational playgroup started about five years ago, but for some reason, it never materialised. Up until now, when the media coverage about intergenerational playgroups helped provide the needed drive to get it up and running.

Michelle says, “I love seeing the joy on children’s faces, as well as the residents’. The interaction at playgroup happens naturally, it’s not taught, it just happens. It’s very fulfilling!”

She witnessed the benefits of a playgroup as an aunt. As she says, “I saw how much joy and engagement the children brought to the residents”. The connection created between the children and elders is such a beautiful thing to witness.

Michelle adds, “I want to encourage anyone with a connection with an aged care facility to talk to managers and see if they could work with Playgroup NSW in doing something similar. The possibilities are endless.”

These are just a few of the hundreds of volunteer heroes behind Playgroup NSW. We hope their stories encourage and inspire other parents and carers to volunteer at your community playgroup. Volunteer opportunities range from serving as a Committee Member (Coordinator, Secretary or Treasurer). Also, those playgroups with multiple sessions, need session leaders, some playgroups have other volunteer roles as well.

We, at Playgroup NSW, want to thank all our volunteers at our playgroups, our Board of Directors and those who volunteer at our events for dedicating their precious time to make playgroups such a safe and supportive place for parents and a fun environment for children.

We couldn’t have done it without you! Thank you!

Volunteer! Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
Arthur Ashe

If you want to assist your community playgroup as a committee member or in another capacity, speak with a committee member at your group.