Shining a light on opportunities offered through volunteering
From donating her time as a volunteer to leading Gateways’ many volunteer programs, Jenny Schmidt has gained experience on both sides of the fence during her 15 years with the organisation.
During that time, Jenny has worked in recreation coordination, recruitment and training, but always kept one foot in the door of volunteer coordination.
‘I actually started out as a volunteer in the Interchange Host Program, so was drawn to the volunteer team leader role when it came up,’ Jenny says.
‘I loved the program and liked the idea of being able to get others involved in volunteering. Proof the volunteering can be a pathway to employment!’
It is an aspect that Jenny – who has a background in nursing and disability – is keen to share.
‘I’d love more people to realise that volunteer experience really can lead to employment. After all, what better way to find out if a career in the disability field is right for you?’
Most Gateways volunteers start by assisting in social and recreation group activities for children and adults with a disability.
Other volunteering opportunities at Gateways include becoming an Interchange Host or Buddy, supporting fundraising such as our wonderful team of Christmas gift wrapping volunteers or volunteering as a corporate group, an area that Jenny is keen to develop.
‘COVID-19 meant we had to stop our volunteer programs, but now we’re back with strong policies and procedures in place to keep everyone as safe as we can,’ Jenny says.
‘With a lot of young volunteers, there is a regular turnover, so we need to continue recruiting new, enthusiastic people for our growing programs and group projects at various Gateways venues.’
Jenny recently completed specialised training and accreditation through Volunteering Victoria, an ongoing professional development programs to promote awareness and respect for volunteer management as a profession.
She says volunteer leaders need to be good communicators who are responsive to what’s needed to support volunteers and keep them engaged to ensure they have a positive experience and feel valued.
Jenny, whose down-time involves reading, making kombucha and enjoying the outdoors, says she loves her job for the diversity of people she gets to meet.
‘We have school and uni students, people interested in working in community services and disability fields, and people of all ages, who just want to contribute to their community and give something back.’