Unsung heroes giving gifts of love

CATH ANDERSON meets a dedicated group of volunteers creating and giving gifts of love.

Members of the Valkyrie Care Group work tirelessly on their “Bags of Care”. Picture: BRIAN SEMMENS

Members of the Valkyrie Care Group work tirelessly on their “Bags of Care”. Picture: BRIAN SEMMENS

CREATING and giving gifts of love, in the form of “Bags of Care” to support those fighting cancer, is the venerable mission of a small army of very dedicated volunteers.

These unsung heroes, known collectively as Valkyrie Care Group, have now reached their 14th year of operation since their formation in July 2000. 

The group was founded by Val Pratt and Marj Gorrie, Rhonda Ralph (retired but still maintaining an interest) and Elma Mayhew (now sadly passed). About 38 others labour tirelessly with avid enthusiasm.

“The Bags of Care and their contents are designed to bring some physical as well as emotional comfort to people recovering from cancer treatment,” co-ordinator Val Pratt explains. 

“They also enhance all the brilliant services patients are already receiving.

“Each year, about 2500 Bags of Care are delivered to the medical and surgical units in both local hospitals. All other associated units that treat people with cancer, such as OTIS in Mandurang, also receive the bags. 

“Relevant staff members distribute them to their patients on our behalf.”

By request, bags are also made up for children with age-appropriate contents, and people can contact Val for a Bag of Care to send to family or friends anywhere, either nationally or globally.

In addition to this work, saleable items are made for fundraising by the group. 

These are sold at events including Relay for Life, Bendigo Garden Club Spring Expo, Strathdale Quilters bi-annual Quilt Exhibition and the Dahlia and Arts Festival. 

“We are so thankful for the generous support of the Bendigo Bank that has enabled us to set up such a great work area,” says Val. 

“Now we can achieve much more, and can accommodate many more workers on a workshop day.

“There are at least 30 ‘Friends of Valkyrie’ out in the community helping us. 

“They can be groups that support us with donations of money after running an event on our behalf, or indeed individuals who donate money just because they want to help us to help others.

“Some sew for us at home or donate fabric to assist us with the work that way. 

“There are also businesses out there that help us by discounting the cost of goods that we have to purchase. We are very appreciative of the assistance of all these people.

“Each Bag of Care costs us approximately $25 to put into someone’s arms,” says Val, “so everything that people do to assist us with this does really help.

“Of course that cost does not include labour, but covers goods purchased to make or fill the bags. 

“It also includes servicing the 35 sewing machines that are either at the workshop or in certain members’ homes, plus other costs associated with the manufacture of the bags.”

 Many Valkyrie members are also committed to other community pursuits such as Vision Australia, Heartbeat Support Group, local church groups and the MS Opportunity Shop to name a few. 

One wonders where we would be without the constant support provided by our community’s wonderful volunteer workforce.

If you would like to assist with this cause via donation, support or volunteering, please contact Val Pratt, co-ordinator of the Valkyrie Care Group, on 5443 4713 or 0439 389 453.

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