Helen’s helping nature

Sheis valued by some as the best child carer in the area and by others as the best organiser, and Parkville’s Helen Gardner wouldn’t have it any other way.
Nanjing Night Net

Long term Parkville and Scone lady Helen Gardner believes she had the will to volunteer instilled in her from a very early age due to her parents’ involvement in the community, however the passionate local loves to give her own time and energy to see the community thrive and others benefit.

The local lady enjoys being part of the local community as she is a strong believer that you cannot sit back and wait for things to happen.

“If you can’t help someone else in the world, what’s the point of being here,” Mrs Gardner says.

“There is always someone worse off than yourself, so you’ve got to get out there and help people.”

These words echo from memories of the values instilled in Mrs Gardner from her mother from an early age.

She still recalls her first introductions to volunteering when her mum would pack her off with her backpack full of tickets, a sandwich, banana and some water to pre-sell tickets around Wingen to promote the upcoming family dances to support the village.

“That’s where it all started,” she said.

Mrs Gardner is a true blue local as she was born at Brancaster Hospital and grew up with her older sister and older brother in Wingen.

With parents that were very involved in everything from the Wingen School P&C to the Country Women’s Association (CWA), the children quickly learnt that being involved was simply a part of life.

As a little girl, Mrs Gardner was educated at Wingen Public School until year 6 when she graduated on to Scone High School to be one of the first students to go through the new Gundy Road school.

Naturally, Mrs Gardner was one of the key organisers on the committee that coordinated the 50th anniversary of the school last year, which she really enjoyed being a part of and catching up with old school friends.

When she was in year 10, Mrs Gardner left school and started working at M Campbell and Co, as she said “like every other young girl in the district”.

The young woman continued working there in the grocery department for six years until she married Leo in May 1971 and they moved to Merriwa for a brief period of 12 months.

Since returning to the hub of the Upper Hunter, the couple have lived at Parkville for 39 years where they have raised their four children – Trevor, Bradley, Edward and Penny; and two foster children Rebeca and Roman who have brought them 13 grandchildren.

One association Mrs Gardner has been involved with throughout the years, since she was 12-years-old, is the hockey club.

Mrs Gardner said her parents, Ted and Kit Cummins, were known around the district as ‘Mr and Mrs Hockey’ as they were very involved in local hockey.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s Mrs Gardner was very involved in the Women’s Hockey Association as a player and committee member and continued to play for many years until she had her third child and life got a little bit too busy.

Many would know Mrs Gardner’s face as she has worked at various places in Scone such as the Vogue, motels and has waitressed at The Connaught for about 25 years, still doing the occasional shift when needed.

But, if she could choose, she’d rather be caring for children and volunteering, two things she has done a lot of.

Since she was about 16, Mrs Gardner has minded about 60 local children including five sets of twins.

Her and Leo extended their passion for caring for children when they started adopting children as foster carers in 1999.

The couple have welcomed many short term children and two long term children through the Wandiyali Out Of Home Care After Hours service.

Mrs Gardner said they always wanted to be able to help out these children and while it is hard work, it is well worth it.

“It’s very fulfilling, you don’t need a mansion or to be star struck all the time, you just need to be a normal family,” she said.

“It’s a very special thing.”

Mrs Gardner said children are the love of her life and caring for them has meant a lot to her.

Another strong passion she has is for the Wingen-Parkville CWA, which she has been a member of since she was just seven-years-old.

Mrs Gardner joined as a junior member with another local lady Coleen Pinkerton, and together they learned the lessons of a lady – setting the tables properly and organising luncheons, etc.

Since then she has advanced to fill many roles, including delegate and cookery officer, and she has been the president for the past nine years.

She is the current president of the Wingen School of Arts Hall committee, which she has been for the past three years.

Throughout the years, Mrs Gardner and others have worked hard to organise events at the hall such as family dances, CWA functions, toy box and the exciting centenary ball last year.

They have also fundraised continuously to fund a new floor in the hall and are currently working on a new kitchen.

Mrs Gardner said the hall is a special place to her as her great grandfather, whose photograph hangs within the hall, helped build the original 101 years ago.

Throughout the past 34 years, Mrs Gardner has been very active in the St Luke’s Anglican Church.

In the early days, she was involved in running the Church of England Boys Society Club, was in charge of Sunday School and she was one the committee as president and treasurer of the Mother’s Union when it existed.

These days she is a people’s warden, handling any complaints from the people of the church.

When she is at home, and not too busy, Mrs Gardner is a member of the Parkville Social Club where they organise Christmas parties for the children, social days and tennis days.

She said her motivation to be involved stems from a young age and she really enjoys being busy doing what she loves most.

“I am lucky to be able to help others, but I couldn’t do a lot of the things I do without the support of my husband Leo and I thank him for that,” she said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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