Help the Guide Dogs Centre | Guide Dogs NSW/ACT

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09 February, 2016

Help the Guide Dogs Centre

Volunteers Travis Evans and Scott Driver at the Guide Dogs Centre in Glossodia

Volunteers needed for a range of tasks

Fourteen years ago, while pushing himself to pedal a gruelling charity bike ride to raise funds for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, Scott Driver had a "light bulb moment".

"I thought I would be far better off volunteering to help the organisation out during the other 51 weeks of the year too," the Cherrybrook resident said.

So for the past 14 years, Mr Driver, who learnt about the free services offered by Guide Dogs for people who are blind or vison impaired when his father lost his sight, has given his time to assist in many ways.

From repairing and replacing model Guide Dogs at supermarkets, to serving tea and coffee at events, selling merchandise, letter sorting, packing showbags and driving Gulliver, the world's biggest Guide Dog, Mr Driver has become a jack of all trades for the organisation.

Guide Dogs is urgently seeking more volunteers like Mr Driver to assist the organisation, which provides free services to enable people with impaired vision to get around their communities safely and independently.

In particular, the Guide Dogs Centre at Glossodia is seeking help with administration duties such as filing, scanning, archiving and destruction and to drive puppies from the centre around Sydney.

"As we receive less than 2 per cent of our funding needs from the government, we rely heavily on the generosity of the community. Our volunteers are the lifeblood of our organisation," said Paul Adrian, Guide Dog Services Manager.

Mr Driver said he really enjoys meeting people and hearing their stories while volunteering. "I get a lot of pleasure from speaking with people, learning about their background and listening to their tales. Many of these people I wouldn't have the opportunity to meet outside volunteering," he said.

He has also developed close relationships with other volunteers such as Travis Evans, who also drives Gulliver around the state and helps with merchandising stalls. A police officer of 15 years, he finds great satisfaction in volunteering for Guide Dogs and a good relief from his duties.

Mr Evans decided to help the organisation as a legacy to his grandmother, who was a regular financial contributor to Guide Dogs more than seven years ago.

Travis Evans helping out at a Guide Dogs merchandise stall

He initially became a volunteer Puppy Raiser, looking after Guide Dog pups in training from eight weeks to 12-14 months. These days, Mr Evans is often found behind the wheel of vehicle towing Gulliver or assisting at events. He has even organised fundraising barbecues at Bunnings.

Both men encouraged those thinking of volunteering to give it a go. "There is a variety of areas you can help with, from office work to assisting with stalls and driving. You will never be bored," Mr Evans said. "And if you are ever in doubt you can always rely on the Guide Dogs staff for help and support."

Mr Evans said he will continue volunteering for the organisation. "I don't think I will ever find a better and more fulfilling charity to work for," he said. "I always feel appreciated by Guide Dogs. It is such a great cause, plus there are puppies!"

"I have also personally witnessed the difference having a Guide Dog has made to close friends I have met who are vision impaired," Mr Evans said.

Over the past year, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has provided its free services to more than 3,500 people who are blind or have impaired vision. Services include training people with vision loss in how to safely get around using long canes, Guide Dogs and electronic travel aids, such as talking GPS.

There are an estimated 300,000 Australians with uncorrectable vision loss (in 2016), 100,000 of whom live in NSW and the ACT. These figures are predicted to increase by more than 50 per cent by 2030.

"With demand for Guide Dogs, which cost more than $35,000 each to breed, raise and train, and our other services growing due to increasing numbers of people experiencing vision loss, so does our reliance on the public's generosity," Mr Adrian said.

"As such the work of our volunteers is becoming more and more important for raising funds and awareness that vision loss doesn't have to limit a person's independence."

For more information about how you can support Guide Dogs NSW/ACT call 9412 9300 or visit www.guidedogs.com.au