The first thing Valerie Freeland has to say about volunteering is that you get more back than you give.
She's been working with Berry Street for six years, but her family has been supporting the organisation for some 50 years.
'I first started going in once a week and doing all sorts of jobs – photocopying, sorting toys, anything they needed me to do. And no matter what I was doing, I would always come home stimulated because they are all such lovely people,' she says.
Valerie says she loves working with an organisation that is making a difference in kids' lives.
'My husband and I love kids. We have five children and 11 grandchildren. We've been married 57 years and we love children.'
'I reached the stage where I wanted to do something so I could get out of the house. Our kids had such a wonderful foundation and have so many happy memories from their childhood and I wanted to do something to help children that don't have that. Some of the kids Berry Street helps have no happy memories, no one they can trust.'
After two years of pitching in and helping any way she could, Val was recognised with an award for being a loyal, generous and caring volunteer. Berry Street staff took her around to visit some of the programs they run. This gave her a wider perspective of the work.
'The more I saw, the more passionate I became,' she says.
She started addressing service groups like Probus and CWA, telling them about the work of Berry Street. Currently she is helping with a program called 'Early Learning is Fun', encouraging parents to read with their children.
Valerie says the people who really need medals are the foster carers. She remembers going on a foster care camp to Angelsea where there were 100 carers and 100 kids. She sat and listened to the foster carers tell stories about their experiences.
'That contact with the foster carers made me want to do more,' she says. 'Berry Street is an organisation I feel humbly proud to be part of.'
You can help Berry Street in supporting the rights of children, young people and their families. Visit www.berrystreet.org.au to find out how