Flo Gibbons, 80, has been a volunteer at the Remembrance Village for the past 10 years bringing smiles to the residents and staff with her “weird and wonderful” outfits.
“Mrs Bowcher was transferred to the Remembrance Village in Wagga and I came and visited her every day and then it was coming to Mother’s Day there were only 29 ladies here,” she said.
“I knitted all the ladies a scarf each and the manager said it was not permissible to give them away unless I was a volunteer so I signed up.
“I have been here ever since so 10 years now.”
Flo said she never lets her age stop her and even though she tries to take a day off, more often than not she will still volunteer five days a week.
“I try to have Tuesday off but if Ros has something busy like Melbourne Cup and I feel that I am needed then I pop in,” she said.
“So I do end up being here five days, but I am always happy. They’re all my mothers and they’re all beautiful people."
Flo is well-known for her love of making outfits to fit the themes of seasons and holidays and said it’s about “getting into the spirit of things”.
“I love to dress up so when it’s Christmas time I have a Christmas tree with all these bells and balls and everything is sewn on,” she said.
“When it’s Easter time I come as the Easter Bunny.
"For Remembrance Day,I have made a pair of slacks that are covered in poppies and a hat that has poppies on it with a red brim and I will wear a red lace blouse.”
Flo does not have a history of making clothes, but loves doing it in her spare time.
“The residents love it,” she said.
“Every day I wear something different and they are waiting for me to come in to see what I have got on.”
“I always say they fit where they hit.”
When it comes time to lend a helping hand there is nothing she can’t or won’t do, Flo said.
“I help with the cards, the bingo, I set up for the music and all sorts of things,” she said. “It’s easy to develop relationships with all of them because they're all so special and 99 per cent of them are someone's mother and they should be treated well.”
Earlier this year, Flo was recognised for her contributions with the Milne-Wood Medal.
The award is an honorary citation presented each year by the Board of RSL LifeCare in recognition of an individual having a history of consistently delivering an exceptional standard of service to the residents.
The recipient can be either a resident, staff member or volunteer and one who has demonstrated a high level of achievement with service to RSL LifeCare.
Flo said recieving the award was entirely unexpected.
“It was pretty nervy because I didn't know they had put me in for it and when the man rang me up and told me that I had won it I said ‘no this is a fake call’,” she laughed.
“I told him ‘Jenny Snowden would have rung me and us 80- year olds have been told not to take these fake phone calls.
“I am very sorry for being rude and abrupt but I have to hang up now’. When I met him in Sydney, he said to me ‘do you think I am fake now’.”
Flo said she is always so positive and helpful because she was raised that way.
“Respect the elder, don't go past the junior, make sure you do the right thing by yourself, but also make sure you do right by others at the same time,” she said. “What better upbringing can you have than that?”
Flo said she has no plans to cut back yet and joked that sometimes visitors will mistake her for a resident.
“I tell them ‘they let me come all day, they let me eat here, but they won't give me a bed’,” she joked. “Ros really looks after me as a volunteer and she gives me that much respect love and care and that's what it's all about otherwise I couldn't be a volunteer.”
Ros Brown, an employee at the Remembrance Village in Wagga, has known Flo for the past 10 years.
“I always like to ask her things because she will always give me advice and suggestions,” Ms Brown said.
“She is very good value and she develops relationships with the residents and turns up in these weird and wonderful outfits.
“One year, she dressed up as the Easter bunny and they all laughed.
“I wonder what she's going to turn up in and she’s very positive and very energetic, I don't know how she does it.”
Ms Brown said she has too many fond memories of Flo to count.
“One of the most memorable was just before Christmas, she came in dressed as a tree and was ringing a bell and had lights on her,” she said.
“She had a big trolley from the laundry and it was all filled with gifts, more than 80 presents.”
Remembrance Village resident May Bruce loves having Flo around the place.
“She works so well and she runs, she doesn’t walk she has so much energy,” she said.
“I think she is very clever to create the clothes she wears and today’s with the poppies is so lovely.”
Another resident, Max Sydenham, said one quote springs to mind when he thinks of Flo.
“When thoughts and minds are with us we are never out of touch. Old friends do remember and remembering means so much,” he said.
The Remembrance Village’s general manager Jeni Snowden said Flo was one of five recipients of this year’s 2018 Milne Wood Award.
“Flo has a huge impact with the residents at Remembrance Village and puts a huge smile on their faces with her efforts which have included dressing up in many different costumes and ridiculous outfits for the many special occasions that are celebrated here,” she said.
“She has given of her own time and money over the years knitting and donating many different items for bingo prizes along with many hours assisting with activities.
“Remembrance Village is indeed fortunate to have Flo as one of their many and deserving volunteers.”