Allen Davies and his wife Heather are typical of the volunteers supporting the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service. Since retiring they find themselves busier than ever but are happy to find the time to help out when required.
“One of the beauties of volunteering for the Helicopter Service is you are never tied to a specific time or day,” says Mr Davies. “There is flexibility. You just look at your days when you are available and can do something. It’s very flexible and very rewarding too.”
The Service is always keen to recruit volunteers but would be happy to hear from retired men in particular. Westpac Rescue Helicopter volunteers’ co-ordinator Jacqui Bailey says retired men are an untapped resource.
“I definitely fit that bill,” Mr Davies says. “I have time on my hands.”
Born and bred in Newcastle, Mr Davies was in the newspaper industry for 25 years as a printer at Fairfax, and then bought a set of taxi plates and ran a cab for 24 years. He says stories of some of the rescues the Service has performed were probably a motivation for he and Heather to get involved.
“You reach that stage where you feel it’s time to start giving something back,” he says. “I just thought the Westpac Rescue Helicopter was one of the best things to volunteer for. Time is the main thing I offer. There’s not much use for an ex-cab driver or a rotten old printer.”
Ms Bailey disagrees.
“Allen has great people skills,” she says. “And that is a tremendous attribute for someone dealing with the public on behalf of the Service. When he’s out in the community he has a wonderful ability to connect with people. It’s very important. He engages people.”
Other volunteers point to his barbecuing ability.
“You have to be able to relate to people, but I find everyone who works for the Service is great,” Mr Davies says. “There are a lot of nice people around here so it’s not hard for me to do my little bit.”
Mr Davies is also a member of Probus, Fairfax Retirees and Newcastle Friendship Force, an international club.
“Between those three clubs my wife and I are busy, but we like to find time for the Rescue Helicopter,” he says. “We took international visitors from the Friendship Club to a lunch at the Helicopter Base.
“My wife also volunteers at the Mater hospital, and I said to her the Helicopter might be a good thing to get involved with,” Mr Davies says. “I said to her ‘you’re at the Mater, so I might as well be at the Helicopter’. Heather decided to get involved too.”
They have now been volunteering for four years and say giving back to the community provides a lot of self-satisfaction.
Volunteer numbers are steady but the Service could always do with more, particularly those retired men.
“There are enough volunteers to allow you to fit in Helicopter volunteering around your program,” Mr Davies says.
“Some of the functions you really have to work, but it’s a very rewarding experience. It makes you feel good that you’re putting in.
“I can remember when the Service started with the little chopper flying around the beach. It’s a big concern now and a worthwhile concern too. I remain constantly amazed that no one has ever paid to use the Service.”