The acorn started back in 1976 when George Feros approached Shirley as director of nursing to help form a committee to raise funds for a nursing home in Byron Bay, and the story of the eccentric George ringing his bell in the main street to collect money is part of The Bay’s recent history.
George died before the dream could be realised, but eventually, with Shirley as chair of the board, Feros Village was built in Byron Bay and then in Bangalow.
“In those days we gave a lot to the community,” explained Shirley of her involvement that happened at the same time as her busy working life, “and were involved in so many of the organisations around town – it was seen as part of the civic duty of a hospital matron.”
When the nursing home became a drain on the board’s resources, they made the decision to appoint someone with financial skills, and from then on the organisation went from strength to strength, and to something far beyond the dreams of the eccentric Greek man ringing his bell in Jonson Street.
Feros Care ceased to be just nursing homes in two shire towns when the board applied for and obtained funding to administer ‘community aged care packages’, initiatives that are designed to help the elderly to stay in their own homes with a whole range of services from shopping, cooking, transport and outings, to day care and in-home respite.
“The government wants us to provide this community care,” said Shirley, “because this is what people want – to remain at home.”
The tendering process is ongoing, and each year it seems that Feros Care adds another innovative service to its impressive list.
“Now we have close to 1000 clients in the community from Caboolture down to Coffs Harbour,” said Shirley, “and as a result had to move the office from Byron Bay to Pottsville.”
Last week’s launch of an office in Caboolture that will help the large number of the area’s elderly to remain in their homes was yet another feather in the cap for Feros Care, and Shirley went up with the whole board for the occasion.
“I felt so proud at Caboolture,” said Shirley.
There is so much for Shirley and the team to be proud of in the 30 years of labour of love that has been Feros Care, and the organisation has a staggering list of awards to prove it, with the latest being the Excellence in Management Award for “brilliant” CEO Jennene Buckley and Best Renovated Aged Care Facility Award for Feros Bangalow.
But while Shirley is proud of all that has been achieved, she is frustrated that the organisation receives so little community support, both in terms of being recipients of community fundraising drives, and of people to help by joining the team.
“All I really would like, and what we need,” she said, “is to start getting new members of the organisation.”
When this happens, Shirley may be able to start thinking about stepping down after so many years, although for a woman involved in a dizzying number of causes besides Feros – the Hospital Committee, the Town Centre Committee, Cape Byron Headland Trust, ADFAS, the Writers Festival – it is a bit hard to envisage.
Anyone interested in volunteering with an organisation that makes a difference in the lives of seniors can contact the office in Coolangatta on 07 5669 0555.
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