Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless

Sherry Anderson’s quote perfectly applies to the legion of volunteers who are the lifeblood of the Manly 16ft Skiff Sailing Club.

Vice-commodore and volunteers’ co-ordinator James Lawira-Fernandez tells us there are 56 registered helpers on the books, but that number is close to double once you factor in parents and family members who give up their time to assist the juniors.

Their roles are numerous and varied, from starters to judges and handicappers. The volunteers operate and man start/finish/pin/safety boats, train our junior and 13s sailors, turn snags on the barbecue and roll up the sleeves at club working bees. Our volunteers don’t put their hand out – they put it up. And, put simply, without them Manly’s much vaunted sailing program would sink without trace.

“Our volunteers are the lifeblood of Manly 16ft Skiff Sailing Club and are imperative to the continued and successful operation of our sailing activities,” Lawira-Fernandez says. “We have members offering their time in all manners of roles, including organisation, administration, marketing and operational activities. “Our key tenets predominately revolve around upholding the utmost standard of safety for our sailing fleet, which comprises sailors of all ages and abilities, whilst conducting race activities in a consistently efficient, professional and fair manner. “I cannot stress enough how important all our volunteers are. Without all their ongoing support, including those who have come before us, the club could not exist as it does today.”

No one epitomises the “giving back” ethos more than the Iles family. Mum Kathryn, dad Steve and kids Jessica and Andrew have been mainstays for many years, juggling sailing commitments around a number of volunteering roles. Jessica, who was our vice-commodore for three years, was virtually born into it. “Mum and Dad have been volunteering almost every week at Manly since my brother and I were in juniors,” she tell us.

“My dad, in particular, would do anything for Manly including coming down mid-week to make sure everything is ready for the weekend. “He also runs races for Manly Juniors and Flying 11 states and nationals and my mum joins him on those adventures. “The volunteers are so important to the club and it’s people like my dad who volunteer because they love it, not for praise, that we should be so grateful for. “As vice-commodore I really got to see how lucky we are to have so many committed volunteers.”

One of those is Tina Armour, who nervously walked in our door 21 years ago asking if she could help in any way. She was initially given the sponsor liaison role, a meet and greet role her bubbly personality was perfectly suited to. From there Tina was handed timekeeping duties, meticulously recording start and finishing times for the 13s and 16s fleets.

After two decades in that role, the 73-year-old is now deck captain, ensuring our fleets return home safely to a warm and enthusiastic welcome. Tina says, with a laugh, the club will never get rid of her. “When I started there wasn’t a female on the start-boat, so I felt very privileged and they made me feel so welcome and worthy,” she recalls. “Some volunteers have been around for 50 years and the thing I love is they’re always willing to share their knowledge and they don’t treat you like you’re an idiot if you don’t know the answer. “I think the volunteers get just as much from the experience as the sailors do.”

Asked if she had any advice for anyone contemplating joining the volunteer ranks, Tina says: “Just do it. You won’t regret it. “You’ll put a smile on someone’s face and become part of a fabulous family.”

Words Adam Lucius

Photos | SailMedia

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