National Volunteers Week: surprising rewards are volunteers’ special treat

12 May 2022

By The Record

Bea, Russell and Bob the dog
Bea and Russell Blackall, pictured with their furry family member, Bob. Photo: Supplied.

Volunteering more than runs in the blood for the Blackall family of Ocean Reef – even their caring canine, Bob, is in on the action.

Bob’s husband-and-wife owners, Bea and Russell Blackall, and Russell’s father, Paul, all volunteer their time and talents through their parish’s pastoral care program, Simon Peter Care.

Like other pastoral care programs throughout the Archdiocese of Perth, Simon Peter Care offers short-term assistance to local people through visiting, gardening, handyman help, meals, transport, family support and bereavement support.

“It is a great way to build local community,” Bob’s “dad”, Russell, says.

“If you have the time available, helping people can really increase confidence, awareness and connections in the local community.”

Bishop Don Sproxton will lead people in praying for volunteers during National Volunteer Week (16-22 May) at an 11am Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral on Sunday, 15 May which this year celebrates a theme – ‘Better Together’ – that strongly resonates with Russell’s experience.

“By being involved, I get to feel that I am part of the local community and know that, with others, we are building a stronger community by helping.”

The benefits of locally based volunteer work are many, “from having locals recognise each other on the street to knowing that help is available when you need it”.

And, while canine company may not be listed amongst the types of short-term assistance offered to people in their community, Simon Peter Care sometimes get requests for Bob to accompany Russell as he carries out gardening or handyman jobs for parishioners.

Ocean Reef parishioner, Penny Power, and Simon Peter Care volunteers, Russell Blackall, and his canine friend, Bob. Photo: Supplied.

Bob is clearly a fan of these visits, and for parishioner Penny Power, the feeling is very much mutual.

“We’re not allowed to have pets here,” Penny says. “We had already lost our little dog before we came to live here but I do miss having a pet and so a visit from a pet is wonderful.”

After learning about Simon Peter Care through the parish, Penny was able to call on them when she needed a little handyman help. In turn, the long-standing member of the parish has also been able to help others by pointing them to Simon Peter Care for bereavement support.

Bea Blackall has been part of Simon Peter Care since its inception in 2017 because she wanted to put her faith into practice.

“I have been able to form great friendships along the way and have felt great in helping when and where I could,” Bea says.

“One of the biggest benefits of having the Pastoral Care Program, I think, is that the parish priest and parish office have someone to call when they find someone needs help. They are no longer alone in trying to assist our parishioners and local community. We work collaboratively.”

Simon Peter Care is part of the Catholic Outreach family, a social service agency of the Archdiocese of Perth which sets up and supports Parish Pastoral Care Programs which engage local volunteers.

Director of Catholic Outreach, Marietta Russo, says that all tasks carried out by local volunteers, whether big or small, are “significant acts of kindness”.

“Parish Pastoral Care Programs are all about connection, compassion and building community, whether it’s doing some gardening or visiting someone who is ill or isolated,” Marietta Russo says.

“Without the volunteers generously sharing their talents and time, these programs cannot exist.”

Catholic Social Services WA Director, Steve McDermott, is also enthusiastic for this year’s National Volunteer Week theme of being ‘Better Together’.

“Join us as we celebrate and thank volunteers for the vital role they play in our lives,” Steve told parishes recently, challenging people to upload their photos to social media during National Volunteer Week using the hashtags #perthcatholic and #NVW2022.

For more information about Parish Pastoral Care Programs, phone Catholic Outreach on (08) 9422 7920 or email at