A dedicated volunteer who’s worked with homeless people for 16 years has retired as the co-ordinator of the Rosies Friends on the Street’s Caboolture branch.
Helen Mangano joined the Rosies team after the Catholic parish she worked in became involved with the charity, giving it a local headquarters.
Rosies volunteers provide community and connection through street outreach to people who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or socially isolated in the local community.
“I didn't have any experience, but they asked me to be the outreach co-ordinator, so I gave it a go and I’ve been with them ever since,” she says.
Every Friday Helen took the Rosies van to its outreach location to meet patrons in need.
“They’d cheer us as we got out of the van,” she says.
“That’s all the recognition I need to see that Rosies is wanted and appreciated and for me, that’s great.”
Helen, says because she’s been volunteering for so long, she got to know many of the patrons.
She praised the team she worked with, saying without their hard work and determination, the branch would not be as successful as it is.
“The team leaders and the team at Caboolture have been together for a long time. Everyone knows what to do, they just slip straight in and didn’t really need to be managed too much, everyone was just great,” she says.
“One of the things I loved doing and did often was go to schools and talk about what Rosies does with the kids,” she said.
While she visited the schools to raise awareness, says she also accepted donations.
“St Benedict’s Primary in particular was one school where every year their Year 6 students would make hygiene packs.
“They’d donate toothbrushes, toothpaste and other things like that, and they’d organise to have a day where they packed them all up before handing them over to us.
“Our vans would be absolutely bursting full of these care packs, it was amazing,” she says.
Helen says sometimes students took the initiative themselves, with a group of Year 6 girls organising a movie and pizza night that raised $700.
“It’s just amazing to see young kids coming through with the drive to be able to help the homeless,” she says.
While she is retiring from volunteering, says she will always treasure her time with Rosies and encourages others to volunteer.
“You just need to go in with an open mind and a friendly ear, listen to the patrons and listen to their stories.
“Don’t be judgmental – once you have their trust, they will become your friends. They just want someone to be there for them,” Helen says.
“From my perspective, having volunteers involved in the organisation is the only way that they can exist. So, step out of your comfort zone and just give it a go.”
Rosies has 1400 volunteers in 14 branches across Queensland, with more 200 outreaches happening each month.