Betty Gilbert, who is now in her 80s, grew up in an era when having a good handwriting was considered an important part of schooling.
She worked for many years in the postal service in Queensland but when she retired in the early 1990s, her beautiful script and passion for helping others launched an extraordinary volunteer career which lasted for more than 20 years.
“After my husband, Ken, passed away in 1991, I decided to become a volunteer at the Wesley – I had got to know the hospital well because Ken, who had cancer, had to go to the hospital for treatment every six weeks.
“The Fundraising Manager at the time was Ray Crompton, and he was looking for an
‘Aunt Mary’ to write cards to the children who were born at the hospital.
“I said, ‘I think I would rather be Aunt Betty’, and that’s how I signed my name on the birthday cards I sent to children who were born in the Wesley maternity ward.”
From 1992 until 2014, Betty wrote birthday cards to each child whose parents could sign them up to the hospital’s “Wallaby Club”. At its height, there were 1,700 members who received cards from Aunty Betty.
“Every year the children would receive a birthday card, and at Christmas time, two of my friends would help me write Christmas cards to each Wallaby Club member.”
Betty often received “fan mail”: “I got many letters from the children or their mums saying how much they enjoyed receiving the cards. And I thoroughly enjoyed writing to them.
“When the children turned 11, they would get a final card wishing them happy birthday as by that age they’d graduated from being Wesley Wallabies.”
Betty said she made many friends and derived years of happiness as a Wesley volunteer.
“I worked every week and for two or three years I worked Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Apart from the Wallaby Club I helped out with a lot of administrative duties. I loved it.”
Volunteering at the Wesley is a huge help to the not-for-profit hospital. Volunteer Manager Maria Maloney said volunteers at the Wesley donated 50,000 volunteer hours in 2013-14.
“As part of National Volunteers' Week, The Wesley Hospital held a morning tea to recognise the significant contribution of our wonderful volunteers on May 12,” Ms Maloney said.
"Aunty Betty" Gilbert - volunteer at The Wesley Hospital