For Vanessa Elwell-Gavins, the decision to volunteer with the Fraser Coast Regional Council’s Community Environment Program was born out of a deep-seated passion for protecting the natural world. After relocating to the Fraser Coast from various parts of Australia, Vanessa felt a strong desire to contribute to the preservation of the region’s unique flora and fauna.

Reflecting on her journey into volunteering, Vanessa shares, “Like so many volunteers in the Community Environment Program, I have been passionate about our natural environment for very many years.” Her eagerness to learn about the native plants and ecosystems of the Fraser Coast drove her to join the program, recognising it as an opportunity to make a meaningful impact on her new community.

Throughout her eleven years of volunteering in the Community Environment Program, Vanessa has amassed countless memorable experiences, from heartwarming moments of camaraderie to amusing anecdotes shared with fellow volunteers. One particularly humorous moment involved preparing “cocky apples” for planting in the nursery, only to discover they were teeming with jumping maggots, eliciting laughter and camaraderie among the volunteers.

Yet, amidst the laughter and camaraderie, Vanessa has been deeply moved by the dedication and resilience of her fellow volunteers, whom she describes as “silent heroes.” Their unwavering commitment to protecting the environment and nurturing the next generation of volunteers has left a lasting impression on Vanessa, reinforcing the importance of community and collaboration in volunteerism.

One particular encounter that left a profound impact on Vanessa was witnessing the growth and development of young people with special needs who participated in the nursery activities. She recounts the story of a young man from Glendyne School who, despite initial challenges, found his niche at the nursery and went on to establish his own small business. Their journey serves as a testament to the transformative power of volunteering in fostering personal growth and empowerment.

Offering advice to prospective volunteers, Vanessa emphasises the rewarding nature of volunteering and encourages individuals to seek out opportunities aligned with their interests. She believes that volunteering not only enriches one’s life but also strengthens the community and contributes to the greater good.

If Vanessa could describe her volunteer journey in one phrase, it would be “A journey of passion and exploration.”