Is Theresa Luton's most experienced volunteer?
She's been volunteering since the tender age of 15
Age Concern Luton telephone befriender Theresa Rhodes, 61, has been volunteering since the tender age of 15. That's when she and her brother Michael Garrand attended a First Aid course organised by St John Ambulance for the children of Luton Vauxhall workers.
Michael is still volunteering for the charity 46 years later. The course led to the siblings enrolling as cadets with the organisation and instilled in Theresa a lifetime of service to others.
She's devoted herself to volunteering for a multiplicity of good causes, in spite of her own health and mobility issues. She's joined everything from the Luton and District Arthritic Society to
Enterprises by the Blind, and from Luton Mind to TOC H and Cruse Bereavement Care.
In addition she's raised funds for numerous charities, including the annual Poppy Appeal, Guide Dogs for the Blind, RNIB, National Deaf Children Society, Leprosy and both the Eczema and Asthma Societies.
The former Ashcroft High pupil, who's been married to husband Peter for more than three decades, is simply passionate about helping those less fortunate.
She explains: "It's given me the chance to make a difference to people's lives, in however small a way."
And over her years of service, she's learned something of vital significance: that there's a big difference between helping people and empowering them.
She says: "It's important to give people the tools, support, encouragement and knowledge to enable them to remain independent.
"They may be dependent on you to start with but the relationship becomes equal as you involve them in making choices.
"With someone visually impaired or who needs help walking, I always offer my arm instead of taking their arm. They can then feel my movements and I tell them if we're coming to a kerb or stairs.
"In this way the person who is being assisted is still in control of their independence. I always check if the pace is right and offer any other assistance they might need. But I'd be OK if they said they didn't need me - I'd just observe from a distance and try to help unobtrusively, so they could complete the task themselves."
Theresa says volunteering gives her a wonderful sense of happiness and satisfaction - and she has no intention of retiring. She's also a talented poet and has just published a book called Journey for Life's Treasure, available from Youcaxton Publishers. Her motto is: Be there for others. And it's one she's observed to the letter.