It is tea time at Illawarra Diggers Aged and Community Care and the meal room is buzzing. Traditionally, Monday morning tea has been a quiet affair but since a group of Greenacres participants have been volunteering, you need to arrive early just to get a seat.

The four volunteers “ Jefri Radam Pundavela, Amie Jones, Goktug Yasar and Karen Thomas “ are part of Community Connect, a unique new program which tailors volunteer opportunities with other Illawarra not-for-profit organisations.

For 89-year-old resident Sheila Mathie and her friends, Monday morning tea has become one of the highlights of the week.

We really look forward to seeing their smiling faces every week, Shelia said.

I think they are doing a wonderful job. They are always pleasant, they have beautiful manners and they like to chat with everyone. I wish they would come every day!

Community Connect support worker, Leonie Way, believes she has the best job at Greenacres. As well as supporting the Illawarra Diggers volunteers, she also supports another volunteer group who are working on the gardens at IRT William Beach Gardens.

It has been an amazing experience to see these volunteers find their purpose, grow in confidence and form all these beautiful friendships, Leonie said.

There is one gentleman who staff say barely ever leaves his room for meals but every Monday without fail, there he is sitting at the table early with a smile on his face.

The dementia ward can be quite confronting but our volunteers just accept the residents without judgement or question. They are gentle, understanding and eager to help in any way they can.

According to Leonie, our volunteers are not just making a difference in the lives of the residents with IRT and Illawarra Diggers staff also enjoying the experience.

Some of the staff from both organisations even came to the Greenacres Open Day and the volunteers loved seeing them and were very proud to show them the work they do at Greenacres.

Everybody involved is getting so much out of it and I am just so happy to be a part of it.