If there was a gene for giving, hospital volunteer Betty Millett certainly inherited it.
And by donating to the Greatest Need project, you can make a difference to the lives of patients and staff at Western Health too.
STEP through an unassuming door on the first floor of Footscray Hospital, and you’ll find a quintessentially Melbourne surprise – a hidden rooftop garden.
It’s a simple space, scattered with hipster-friendly Monstera Deliciosa plants, recycled plastic furniture, outdoor umbrellas and fake turf.
But for Western Health volunteer Betty Millett, pictured above with Judy McKay, it’s one of the tangible results of 28 years’ volunteering.
The bare, forgotten area was injected with new life thanks to funds from the Maribyrnong Auxillary, which Betty pours her heart and soul into as president, secretary and treasurer.
“This is what our money went to last year,” she says proudly, as she hitches up her Western Health apron and perches on a bench.
“It was just a concrete area before. The funds in the past have gone to medical equipment, but we give it to whatever makes people happy.”
The crop-haired grandmother, 81, a stalwart of the hospital’s opportunity shop, was born to be a giver.
She’s a third generation Western Health volunteer, carrying on the legacy of her mother and grandmother.
Her volunteering days began by organising two stalls a year to raise funds for the hospital before the first op shop was set up at Sunshine Hospital, and eventually moving to the Footscray campus.
And her work doesn’t end when she flips the “closed” sign on the door at Footscray every Tuesday.
At night, she knits clothes to line the shop’s racks, pumping out a weekly range of pastel-coloured baby bed socks, jackets and beanies.
Betty was particularly productive when laid up in hospital with one of the four skin cancers she had removed after years of “being naughty”and playing tennis without sunscreen.
“I just can’t sit in front of the television and do nothing,” she says.
“It makes money for the hospital and makes people a bit happy. I thoroughly enjoy working at the hospital. I love talking to people and it keeps you off the streets.”
It also helps fill the time after losing her husband ten years ago after a massive stroke. One of his granddaughters from another marriage still lives with her now.
Her home is treated as a pseudo charity bin by western suburbs residents, who regularly drop off bits and bobs to sell in the shop – and she couldn’t be happier.
“My garage is like a tip with clothes, books, glasses…” she laughs.
“But I got rid of a lot of it this week and brought stuff in here, and this is the best my place has ever looked.”
As much as her generosity is inspirational – she’s the 2013 winner of the City of Maribrynong Volunteer of the Year award – Betty is touched by the kindness of others who do their bit to raise money for the hospital.
She fastidiously jots down their addresses and pens letters of thanks to them all, including the 93-year-old woman who sends her daughter in to donate knitted items.
“We appreciate everything people give us,” she says.
“It means a lot, there’s so many out there who don’t realise that people need help. A lot of people can’t give money wise, but there’s other ways to help.”
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