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Eastern Victoria soldiers honoured for selfless voluntary work

Eastern Victoria soldiers honoured for selfless voluntary work

Eastern Victoria soldiers honoured for selfless voluntary work

5 July 2017

Major Jean Cassidy (pictured left) and Major Bram Cassidy (far right) present Loang Rout and Eileen McKelvey with their volunteer awards. 

By Jessica Morris
 
The Salvation Army is built on volunteers, and at a recent awards ceremony the Eastern Victoria Division celebrated two of its best and brightest.
 
Soldiers Eileen McKelvey, of Bairnsdale Corps, and Loang Rout, of Berwick Corps, were both nominated by their corps officers for their work as volunteers in the wider community and in-house service. They were presented with their awards to coincide with National Volunteer Week at divisional headquarters.
 
Eileen has volunteered at the Bairnsdale Corps’ thrift shop for more than 30 years and provides invaluable support to customers and volunteers in the sorting room.
 
“What doesn’t Eileen do?” said Bairnsdale Corps Officer, Lieutenant David Jones. “Eileen’s service to both the corps and the local community is invaluable. She is a real blessing to the Bairnsdale Corps and is highly respected within the community.”
 
After a fall last year, Eileen was unsure if her volunteering role could continue, however, as Lieut Jones says, they found a role, “right up her alley.”
 
“Eileen is now our Community Centre Chaplain. She interacts with customers in the café and thrift shop and prays with them. She also helps with the school breakfast program at Bairnsdale West Primary School, heads up pastoral care and does hospital visitation in aged care.”
 
In addition to these roles, Eileen finds time to prepare meals for corps functions and community barbecues. She was presented with her award by Divisional Commander, Major Bram Cassidy, who thanked her for three decades of service.
 
As the division’s Youth Volunteer of the Year, Loang, 22, also has a packed schedule. He became a volunteer with Berwick Corps six years ago, and aside from his time transporting teens to and from church for youth and junior soldiers programs, he is a basketball coach, a youth leader and a drummer in the worship band. He’s also employed by the corps to run recreational activities for their START (Salvo, Treatment, Assessment, Recovery, Therapeutic) alcohol and drugs program.
 
“I had no clue of the award and that I was even nominated!” says Loang. “I am very grateful and lucky to have a community that appreciates the work I do, and thankful to Captains Peta and Troy Pittaway who are always there for the community.”
 
Born in South Sudan, Loang migrated to Australia in 2001. Overcoming cultural differences, he learnt English and has become a role model in the South Sudanese community.

Loang joined Berwick Corps in 2011 after it merged with Noble Park Corps, and initially he attended many of the programs the corps offered himself.
 
“[This] really helped me grow and understand things a lot more as a young adult,” he says. “The programs and the leaders were always there to help, whether it was homework, basketball, or I just needed help with something small, someone was always there for me.”
 
Now a young adult himself, Loang’s generous spirit is driven by his own experiences.
 
“When we (the Sudanese congregation) first started attending Berwick Salvos, they welcomed us in with open arms. It felt like a family from the beginning,” he says. “If I ever need help with something, I know that Berwick Salvos will be there for me.”
 
Loang continues to volunteer with Berwick Corps two days a week in the hope that young people in the corps can experience the same support he received as a teenager. He has just completed a personal training course, and has his sights set on becoming a police officer.
 
“It’s my turn to give back to Berwick for all the love and support I've received, and to also help the younger generation grow to be the best they can be.”
 
Eileen and Loang are two of more than 30,000 volunteers who work tirelessly to make the Salvation Army’s mission possible every week in Australia.

Earlier this year, the National Commander, Commissioner Floyd Tidd, highlighted the significant contribution of these volunteers, saying, “The Salvation Army and the wider Australian community is a better place due to your collective volunteering impact. I continue to be amazed that over 30,000 volunteers across Australia regularly contribute to the mission of The Salvation Army. This number swells to over 100,000 during Red Shield Appeal – you really are an Army of volunteers!”

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