Expert Queensland cuddler and husband retire after 19,000 hours of volunteering

Expert Queensland cuddler and husband retire after 19,000 hours of volunteering

A Queensland grandma who has cuddled more than 1,000 newborns at Mater Mothers’ Hospital is stepping down from her duties as an expert cuddler alongside her husband Errol who has contributed to more than four decades of volunteering. 

Husband and wife volunteer duo Gwen and Errol are ready to start their next chapter by the beach after clocking up a combined 19,000 hours of service. 

The much-loved couple were farewelled at an event held at Mater on Tuesday morning, attended by more than 100 staff and fellow volunteers.

Gwen, 80, said her 84-year-old husband’s health had contributed to their decision to step down as long-serving volunteers. 

The couple are also moving from Brisbane to be closer to family in Coffs Harbour, and Gwen says she is ready to cuddle her two grandchildren.

The Acacia Ridge grandma is known as the hospital’s ‘cuddle mum’ and said she would miss her days spent holding tiny babies while new mums learned to juggle life with their little ones, attend medical appointments or needed a short break.

“I will miss everything I do at Mater. I am going to miss the people that I work with, I have known everyone for such a long time,” Gwen said.

“I am going to miss cuddling the little ones, and singing them nursery rhymes.

“Packing up my house after 60 years was sad and saying goodbye to our friends we have made will be hard, but it’s time to start the next chapter.”

Gwen said volunteering at Mater Private Hospital Brisbane also held a special place in her heart.

“I have met so many patients over the years. There are patients you just bond with, the ones that come in for regular treatment. You get used to seeing their smiling faces and that always brightens my day.”

“Look, there will always be someone to take my place here at Mater, they might do it in a different way, but the job will still get done,” she said.

“Another great memory is the retirement village craft groups who donate knitted beanies to the newborns at Mater Mothers. I handwrite them thank you notes, and it just means so much to them.

They would send in a photo of my little note on their wall, and that’s really special. It’s the small things that count.”

Errol started volunteering at the Mater Foundation when the Foundation first started the Mater Little Miracles program.

He distributed Miracle Max soft toys throughout Mater, raising much needed funds for the Neonatal Critical Care Unit, and volunteered at several other Mater Little Miracle events.

Errol, who also volunteered as a Centre Administration Assistant said he would miss his connection to the hospital and the friendly staff.

The couple have volunteered at multiple events organised by Mater Foundation including fun runs and other charity events.

Mater Volunteer SEQ Senior Manager Judy Johnson thanked the couple for their enormous volunteer contribution to Mater over more than four decades.  

“Gwen and Errol are compassionate and kind people. It’s their gift of empathy and time we are so grateful for. They have made a profound impact on the care and services that Mater provides to the community,” Mrs Johnson said.

“This warm-hearted duo will certainly be missed.”

To find out how you can become a Mater Volunteer, please phone 07 3163 8599, email [email protected] or click here

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