End of a chapter for life-changing volunteer

 In STEPS

“It’s so great seeing them graduate but it breaks your heart at the same time because it’s like your own children are leaving home.”

When putting her hand up to volunteer for half a day each week in 2017, STEPS volunteer Linda Ritchie would never have imagined just how invested she would become.

Five years on, after having transitioned to volunteering four days per week, Linda is now reluctantly waving goodbye to the students at STEPS Pathways College, as she prepares to move her life to Mackay.

Linda joined the college as a volunteer at its inception, helping the first ever cohort of students, a group of just six at the time, navigate their way towards a life on independence.

Linda’s versatility and willingness to help wherever she could is what made her so valuable on the campus and is why she formed such an inseparable bond with the students.

“I used to do a bit of everything,” she said.

“I’d help out in the kitchen, in the classroom and I’d also take students to any appointments that they had.”

“I’d also come to learn the body language of each of the students and if I saw someone wasn’t coping or feeling down, I’d just give them a bit of a nudge and help them along the way.”

Linda’s announcement was of course met with plenty of hugs, gifts and tears, as students say their goodbyes to someone who has helped change their lives forever.

Linda said her daughter has already booked her into disability volunteering up north, something she hopes will fill the gap left by the faces she’s come to know so well at the college.

“It’s going to be incredibly sad to leave these lovely people, but I probably try not to think about it too much,” she said. 

“This was and always will be my happy place, I just love it so much.

“When STEPS comes to Mackay, I’ll be at the door waiting.”

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