Three decades of volunteering honouredOct 07, 2021
Irene Chesterman has been a hospital volunteer for 31 years. Now, she has become a Life Member of the United Hospital Auxiliaries of NSW, the organisation’s highest honour.
The award was to have been presented to the humble 80-year-old at the UHA’s State Conference in Orange next month, but COVID lockdowns have denied the Bellingen volunteer her moment on centre stage, where the award is usually presented by the NSW Governor, The Honourable Margaret Beazley AC.
The cancelled conference has not, however, diminished the significance of the award for a woman described by her branch president as “dedicated, energetic and tremendously valued”.
“Irene’s community-mindedness is profound,” said Deb Anderson. “There is no doubt she is deserving of the UHA’s highest honour.”
Irene, the only Life Member recipient in the North Eastern Region this year, joined the UHA as a volunteer at Ryde Hospital in 1990. She transferred to Bellingen Pink Auxiliary in 1993 and, that year, became branch president. A name change followed (Bellingen Hospital and Pink Auxiliary) but the branch’s focus remained firmly on patient and hospital welfare, as it has done for the past three decades.
Irene was a regular visitor at the Bellinger River District Hospital until COVID-19 resulted in volunteer services being suspended again recently as part of the regional lockdown. She would shop for patients but, more importantly, provided a friendly smile and kind words to those in hospital.
Her personal connection with countless patients over the years complemented her fundraising commitment to the hospital; selling raffle tickets at UHA street stalls to help fund medical equipment for the hospital.
“Irene is a compassionate, kind and generous person,” Deb said.
“She has always been a willing mentor to branch members and office bearers, and she promotes the work of the auxiliary in our community, encouraging residents to join and leads by example.
“Irene is a practical woman; well-respected by our members and in the broader community.
“She is a proud member of the UHA and our branch, and is focused on the welfare of our community’s public hospital.
“Irene deserves this accolade and we are all very proud of her achievements over many, many years.”
Irene Chesterman joins an elite Life Membership cohort that includes Bellingen’s Nancy Hobson, a branch member for more than 40 years who also has the honour of being branch patron.