This week is National Volunteer Week and every day The Shepparton News has been featuring local volunteers who dedicate their time to a particular cause. No volunteers column would be complete without featuring Verney Road School identities Lesley Robinson and Brian Reiners! This article written by journalist Declan Martin.
Long-term volunteers Lesley Robinson and Brian Reiners are adored by staff and students at Verney Rd School, where they are always ready to offer a helping hand.
Ms Robinson said she loved her job of driving the school bus of students from the Tongala area and she decided to see if she could help out more at the school.
‘‘I came here every day of the week, so I just asked if I could help,’’ she said.
Ms Robinson has now been volunteering at the school for 20 years, three times a week, and is happy to help out more if she is needed.
‘‘I was volunteering here when it was known as Graham St School and the students have always really given me a lot,’’ she said.
‘‘It’s always lovely going down the street and the students remember you and call out to say hello.
‘‘When I volunteer I give teachers an extra hand to help with some students who need extra care. I hope I give them all the assistance they need.’’
The Koyuga woman helps teachers on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays with programs such as hospitality and said the children were great to work with.
‘‘It does make you feel younger, although sometimes it does make you feel older seeing them leave, but at times you can be a kid with them,’’ she said.
‘‘I’m getting to the stage now where I’m seeing a second generation of students on my bus and at the school.’’
Ms Robinson, who has been driving the school bus for 24 years, said she plans on driving until 2019 and hopes to continue to help the school in her volunteering role after retirement.
‘‘The staff are great. They’re always nice and friendly and never make you feel out of place,’’ she said.
‘‘I absolutely love my job and volunteering. I’m one of the luckiest people in the world. I wake up every morning and I can’t wait to see my kids.’’
Verney Rd School Year 10 student James Bezzina said Ms Robinson was brilliant and a good bus driver.
Retired teacher Mr Reiners has been helping at the school on-and-off for the past seven years and has been active in helping the school take students on excursions and get them active outdoors.
Mr Reiners spent 20 years teaching at Gowrie St Primary School in Shepparton and five years at Verney Rd School before retiring from a full-time role in 2010.
He was instrumental in starting up a regular overseas Verney Rd School excursion to China every three years and a biennial Sydney trip.
Mr Reiners said during his time as a teacher he strongly believed in taking children out on excursions and camps to challenge them and broaden their views.
‘‘When I retired I thought where can I give back?’’ he said.
‘‘I taught for 45 years and had a wonderful time doing it, but I’m not ready to sit at home and do nothing.
‘‘In any education system you need volunteers, and having them improves the teacher to student ratio, giving them more time.’’
Mr Reiners is particularly active in swimming and horticulture programs at Verney Rd School and also spends his Tuesday afternoons helping out in Wilmot Rd Primary School’s garden.
‘‘In any community there’s never enough money to pay people for every task. There’s a bloke who comes here and volunteers to fix the bikes — if he was paid for it, it would cost an absolute fortune,’’ he said.
‘‘I would encourage anyone to volunteer anywhere they can. You have all these organisations calling out — there are countless opportunities.’’
Outside of school, Mr Reiners volunteers at Shepparton Access where, on a weekly basis, he takes two people out for morning bike riding.
He is currently aiming to get them ready to ride the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail in a couple of weeks’ time and the Great Victorian Bike Ride next year.
Mr Reiners has also given almost 20 years to the Kialla community with roles at the Kialla Park Tennis Club and now the Kialla Golf Club.
‘‘How can schools like ours work without volunteers like Lesley and Brian who go above and beyond?’’ Verney Rd School principal Janet Gill Kirkman said.
‘‘They provide a great support network and we’re very thankful.
‘‘In any one week we could have two volunteers or 10 helping us out here. Lesley and Brian have made that long-term commitment to our school and we’re grateful for them.’’
Hands On: Retired teacher and volunteer Brian Reiners checks on the garden at Verney Road School.