Being an only child was the catalyst for Margret Bell to “step up” and in doing so decades later was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for service to the community of Camden.
Ms Bell, who has had friends recognised with Australia Day honours, and “deservedly so” never expected she would be one of them.
But, she was jolted into reality when she received a letter in the mailbox listing all her achievements – it hit home that had accomplished a lot.
“I look at my life like that [and] I thought, ‘My God’ you just go through life [without adding up what you have done].”
She said it’s not something that you think about until it’s in black and white in front of you.
“All my life I have had to make that step up. To find your friends or to make your family when you are the only one.”
Her mother and father moved interstate when she was newly married.
“I was really on my own with my husband (ex-husband) then and it was only us.”
Ms Bell always liked meeting people and once her own family came along (two children) she had an opportunity to expand her circle of friends, some of whom are now life-long friends through volunteering.
When her children, who are in their 40s, were younger she had plenty of time, but even continued to help out in different sporting groups and organisations when she returned to fulltime work.
She conceded that volunteering has changed now and it’s more difficult to get people involved.
She said there is an enjoyment about volunteering and participating.
“It gives you a greater respect and a greater support; there’s nothing better than to put yourself forward a bit to do things that are not necessarily paid or great hallelujah moments…be involved.”
Ms Bell moved to Camden local government area in 1980 and fell in love in the area that she has served – Macarthur Preschool, Falcons Soccer Club, Camden Sub-Branch, Returned and Services League of Australia and being awarded Woman of the Year, Camden Region, NSW Government, 2016.
And then there’s also the things in between that Ms Bell just does because it’s “what you do”.
Ms Bell retired from the community based preschool in 2021 and had hoped to have been busier, but covid had other ideas.
Ms Bell is still in demand being asked to work for other organisations and she still has the energy and enthusiasm.
The time that she has been away from outside volunteering has been used at home supporting other projects.
“I am quite involved with the veterans because my husband (second marriage) is a Vietnam veteran,” she said.
“We have a lot of friends who are veterans and men who are not married, divorced or widowers. I have a big involvement with them.”
Ms Bell has provided accommodation in her home to some of the veterans because of their circumstances, and she is pleased that she could help out.
“It’s been great to do…now that I am retired I can help support them.”
She said her current volunteering has been able to be done with covid around.
Ms Bell’s husband, who had been diagnosed with COVID-19, will have finished his isolation to celebrate with his wife on Australia Day.