It Takes a Village

It Takes a Village
Retirement Living

Hear from one of our Villagers of the Year, retirement living resident Thelma Chilton.

27th March 2024

They say that if you enjoy what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. Well, the same can be said for volunteering. And there’s no better example than our wonderful SwanCare retirement living resident, Thelma Chilton. 

Towards the end of last year, Thelma was invited to our annual International Volunteers Day event, where CEO Graham Francis presented Thelma and fellow resident, Ricki McPherson, with the prestigious Villager of the Year Award. 

“What an honour it was!” said Thelma, “I’m not often speechless, but it was heart rendering, and I was very humbled indeed.” 

International Volunteers Day 

A high tea was organised by Executive Assistant Karen Parker, to honour and celebrate our valuable volunteers. 

“It’s a very small way of thanking our volunteers,” said Karen, “They make a huge difference to the lives of our residents and SwanCare as a whole. They not only help to provide a more fun environment, but they help residents live more independent lives.” 

Having worked at SwanCare for the last 29 years, 15 years of which she has been the Volunteer Coordinator, Karen has become acquainted with many volunteers, including Ricki and Thelma. 

“Both Ricki and Thelma are wonderful women. They both individually approached management with their ideas of how they could provide a service, then took the time to do the research, work out logistics and make it happen. They also have a great sense of humour and bring such happiness to everyone they meet.” 

Thelma spoke about her respect for fellow award winner, Ricki. “Ricki has the most wonderful personality,” said Thelma. “She’s very friendly, in fact her whole family are lovely people. She’s always helping others and brightening their day. I have only praise and laughter for Ricki.” 

When reflecting on the day, Thelma says it all came as quite the surprise. 

“It’s funny, at the high tea before the awards happened, I noticed that everyone on my table was wearing a medal. And I said ‘What am I doing sitting here, everyone’s got a medal around their neck, and I haven’t got one?’ Then Graham announced that I had won a medal of my own! 

It now hangs on my door so I can see it every day.” 

A Long-serving Passion for Serving the Community 

Thelma has a significant history of volunteering, and her care, compassion and generosity have been felt by many through her ongoing work. 

Thelma’s journey with volunteering started after her husband passed in 2007. In an effort to take her mind off things, she offered a helping hand at the Army Museum of Western Australia. 

“I'm a military historian and a history buff!” said Thelma, “I'm a gun girl, a swashbuckler! I’ve researched my family's military history and I also help others do theirs. I love military stuff!” 

While researching, Thelma worked as a Duty Officer which involved giving tours to people around the museum. She then started her role as Manager of the souvenir shop. In total, she spent a successful 17 years working at the museum. 

Village Volunteering 

Thelma moved to SwanCare in 2013, and quickly established herself as a keen and eager volunteer, most notably helping to run a range of Bentley Park’s clubs and groups. 

Gardens Interest Group meet once a month and it involves Thelma and other members helping residents manage their gardens throughout the village. These days she is not as physically active, but she still provides optimum value through her knowledge and advice, keeping everyone’s gardens beautiful. 

Thelma also helps to coordinate the SwanCare Allsorts Choir. The group of 25 or so members practice every Tuesday, with their hard work and commitment paying off in regular shows throughout the year. 

“The camaraderie in the group is stupendous,” said Thelma. “We’re not all great professional singers, but it doesn’t matter. It’s all about being together and enjoying ourselves.” 

On a Monday night you’ll find Thelma throwing darts at The Club, and at the end of the week, she returns there to run her exciting Friday Night Chase. And if that wasn’t enough, Thelma also volunteers on the Bentley Park Show Committee! 

Bringing People Together 

Thelma gives up her time selflessly, and she does it because she loves it. She simply enjoys making people happy. 

“Volunteering brings people together,” said Thelma. 

“It doesn’t matter how lonely you are, you can find something for yourself at SwanCare, even if volunteering isn’t your interest. The Leisure Centre in particular is a great place to meet for a drink, have a chat, or listen to my rubbish! Sometimes I even have a dance! 

I love being here, it’s honestly the best place in the world.” 

Thank you to Thelma, and all of our fabulous volunteers, for your invaluable contribution to SwanCare. Your impact on our community is huge, and we appreciate everything you do to help make SwanCare a place for everyone to call home. 


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