“We’ve grown together through volunteering, we look forward to it and it’s become an important part of our relationship, our life,” says Heather Cosgriff.
Heather, a former fashion designer and co-owner of a garden landscape company, and her husband Chris, a retired policeman and veteran of 38 years are an integral part of Mullum Pantry.
Mullum Pantry operates from Mullum Mullum Indigenous Gathering Place and has been delivering fresh food to the community for over 10 years.
“When I was still working with the police, I was an Aboriginal Liaison Officer, which is how I first got involved with many local Aboriginal community controlled organisations, like Mullum Mullum Indigenous Gathering Place,” says Chris.
“One day, an Elder asked if I’d like to come along and help out in the pantry, so I did, and eventually Heather started joining too.”
Heather and Chris have used their creativity, logistics management and relationship-building skills to help sustain and grow the food relief program at Mullum Pantry. They manage other volunteers, deliveries from FoodBank and provide a safe and welcoming environment for the community to access food.
The couple also supports fundraising events for Mullum Mullum Indigenous Gathering Place.
Chris and Heather’s volunteering efforts don’t end there. They have volunteered with:
- Lilydale State Emergency Service
- RoadSafe Yarra Ranges
- Metropolitan Traffic Education Centre
- Blackburn English Language School
- Coranderrk Festival Committee
- Communities Council on Ethnic Issues (CCOEI) Eastern Region.
Their contributions earned them the ‘Volunteering Pathways to Skills and Inclusion Award’ in the 2021 Victorian Volunteering Awards and life memberships with the CCOEI.
“Volunteering isn’t just for older people – its benefits go across the board. I’d love to see more young people giving it a go to find out what they’re really interested in and want to do with their lives,” says Heather.
“Oh, it’s fantastic for young people,” says Chris. “So often in the police we’d encourage young applicants to go off for a year and do some volunteering to get a bit of life experience before starting. When they came back, they’d be like a different person. Volunteering teaches you so much about yourself and our community, and it gives you a great sense of self-worth.”
“I volunteer because I get as much out of it as I put in, if not more. It’s a two-way street, I’m always learning and also getting to pass things on to the young volunteers who join us,” says Chris.
“And it’s a great feeling that we can do it together,” adds Heather.