By Danielle Kutchel
Surprise parties are difficult to pull off – but clients and staff at Cornerstone Contact Centre have managed to successfully surprise one of their own with a special celebration.
Long-serving volunteer Barbara cried tears of joy when her services were recognised at a lunch last week.
The centre’s clients gathered for their usual lunch on Tuesday 4 May, with Barbara manning the water station – little knowing that there was a surprise waiting in the wings.
Cornerstone CEO Naomi Paterson ran guests through the week’s upcoming diary dates before springing the news of Barbara’s 22 years of volunteering with the centre, to cheers and much applause.
Federal Bruce MP Julian Hill presented the shocked volunteer with a beautiful bouquet and praised her work in a short speech.
“Twenty-two years of service to the community is a wonderful milestone,” he said.
“On behalf of everyone over so many years that you’ve helped, served, supported and given a nice smile or warm words to, it is wonderful.
“It’s more than just a meal, it’s a sense of community and people to have a word to and a laugh and smile with, and to make some friends, so thankyou Barbara for making it such a pleasure.”
Somehow, the secret was kept safe over months of planning and Barbara said she had had no idea of the centre’s plans for her celebration.
“I’m dumbfounded, I was shaking. It’s just so beautiful for somebody to do this,” she said.
Barbara recalled that it was her neighbour who first introduced her to Cornerstone more than two decades ago – and after her first visit, she very nearly didn’t come back.
An unfortunate incident in which she accidentally sprayed whipped cream up the wall caused her some embarrassment – but despite it all, she’s been coming back ever since.
She said the clients are part of the reason she has stayed for so long.
“They can drive you nuts, but I drive them nuts too – I give back!” she laughed.
“I have learned a lot from them. I’m very streetwise now.”
And she won’t be hanging up the apron anytime soon.
Although Barbara conceded she’s “not getting any younger”, she said she would love to keep volunteering at Cornerstone for as long as she is able.
“I think if I could get to 25 years I’d be happy,” she said – before being lost in a crowd of well-wishers.