ON Bob Shaw foodie.jpg

Published on 14 April 2023

Finding purpose through service

Bob Shaw may not be a household name, but in the southern community he is a beloved figure.

When he first volunteered for his local community centre in 2002, he had no idea he’d still be helping bring the community together more than 20 years later.

In recognition of this outstanding effort, the 77-year-old retiree was recently presented with the Community Knowledge Broker Award at the Community Centres SA Sector Awards.

The award is designed to celebrate individuals or groups who actively get to know their community and help strengthen it — a description that is certainly fitting.

Bob's journey as a volunteer began after moving to the area to care for his elderly mother.

Feeling the need to connect, he attended the Hackham West Community Centre and thoroughly enjoyed the friendship and camaraderie it offered.

Quickly identifying a need to establish more relaxed and informal spaces where men could go to connect with other men in their community and, drawing on his background as a chef, Bob approached the Seaford Community Centre with an idea.

This is when the Men’s Breakfast was born.

Since then, he has been an active ambassador of the program, handling everything from scheduling the monthly breakfasts to ordering stock, cooking the barbecue, arranging guest speakers and the odd excursion, and even washing dishes.

For Bob, volunteering is more than just a way to give back to the community; it's a way of life.

"I've genuinely loved every minute of my time at the community centre," he said.

"It's like an extended family, and thoroughly enjoyable—a joy, never a drag! Plus, you get to meet so many new and interesting people—they’re a great bunch!"

Officially retiring from his career as a chef in 2005, Bob found that he had more time and energy to dedicate to volunteering. This not only benefitted the community but also had a positive impact on Bob himself.

“Volunteering really brought me out of my shell during an especially tough time in my life. It has given me purpose—I feel if I didn't volunteer, I'd sit at home and be lonely," he said.

When asked about his motivation to keep the Men’s Breakfast program going for so long, Bob said, "I like to see those that attend enjoy companionship, and just have a place to sit, relax and have a laugh."

He added that the breakfast is very welcoming to newcomers, encouraging anyone interested to come along and get involved.

While Bob will be taking a slight step back from his Men’s Breakfast coordinator role over the coming months, you’ll still see his smiling face at the reception desk.

And this dedication has not gone unnoticed.

"Bob is a true asset to the southern community, and we are incredibly grateful for all that he does," said Priscilla Sharpe, Community Development Officer at the City of Onkaparinga.

“Volunteers like Bob are the heart and soul of our community, and the impact that Bob has had on individuals and the community over the years is immense.”

She hopes that Bob’s story serves as inspiration to anyone thinking about volunteering, as a way to give back to the community and make a difference in someone else’s life.

As Bob said, "It's not about the number of hours you give or the reward you receive. It's about having a positive influence on the world around you."

In addition to the Men’s Breakfast, the Seaford Community Centre offers a wide variety of programs and activities that cater to all types of interests and learning needs.

And new volunteers are always welcomed.

Claudia Sailis, Onkaparinga’s Volunteer Coordinator, stresses the impact volunteering has on the local area.

“Volunteers are a vital part of our community, and their participation helps bring people together,” she said.

“It’s also a fantastic way to connect with others, learn new skills and feel great. We invite anyone who is interested to get in touch with Onkaparinga Council and find out how they can get involved."

Whether it’s a regular undertaking or simply helping out at one-off events, there are plenty of opportunities across a range of council programs. Volunteer vacancies can be viewed on the council’s website. Applications can be submitted online. 

Seaford Men's Breakfast is open to men of all ages and held on the third Friday of each month. To reserve a spot, please contact the centre on 8386 3319.

A welcoming, safe and family-friendly environment for all, the Seaford Community Centre is open Monday to Friday, 9am-3pm. To find out what’s on, go to the centre’s Facebook page.

PICTURE: Bob Shaw (right) - serving the Seaford community