An unstoppable force with a heart of gold - farewell Jill Jenkins

When Jill Jenkins was appointed to the position of Volunteer Manager at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead (CHW) in March 1995, she anticipated being in the role for five years.

Five years became 10, and 10 became 15. Now after 28 years of dedicated service as Volunteer Manager and almost 35 supporting the volunteer service, it’s time for Jill to unpin her badge and step out the doors of CHW for the final time.

After tragically losing her eight-year-old daughter Lisa to Cystic Fibrosis in 1984, volunteering at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children at Camperdown tugged at Jill’s heartstrings, and in 1990, she joined the service as a volunteer on Hunter Baillie Ward.

Jill stepped into the role of part-time Volunteer Coordinator in 1994, at the same time as juggling the busy schedules of two school-aged children, playing competitive tennis and volunteering with Meals on Wheels, and went on to lead the transfer of the service to the new Children’s Hospital at Westmead less than a year later, before being formally appointed to the position of Volunteer Manager in October 1995.

A testament to her commitment, Jill has woken up with the birds each morning from Monday to Friday; her alarm sounding at 4.45am to get ready for her commute to Westmead. For many years, she’s met with CHW volunteer Carol at 6am for an early morning walk in Parramatta Park ahead of the work day – their friendship one of the many she’s seen blossom between volunteers over the years.

“It’s been a fabulous job, and I have enjoyed every single day I’ve been here. There’s not a day that I haven’t wanted to come into work,” Jill said.

“Since I lost my husband Ron 16 years ago, being a part of the hospital family has been a great joy, and has filled in a lot for me.”

An unstoppable force with a heart of gold, Jill has seamlessly managed a multifaceted role with as many as 800 volunteers under her coordination at any one time, always ensuring there’s a spare pair of hands where one is needed.

“It’s been a terrific experience working alongside CHW’s volunteers, and I will fondly remember the many barbecues, Teddy Bear picnics and touching moments shared with the beautiful team,” Jill said.

“Volunteers are in every area of the hospital, whether it’s the wards, theatres or helping with administration. They become part and parcel of the many teams and services across the hospital, and if you took them out of the equation, I think there’d be a big hole to fill.”

Alongside coordinating the operations of CHW’s volunteers, Jill has organised countless BBQs, raffles and fundraising events, and has been at the forefront of the Volunteer Shop, which operates as a self-funded business unit, raising vital funds for equipment and other items to directly benefit patients and their families.

Above all, Jill has dedicated herself tirelessly to supporting our patient families, making a difference to the lives of countless children and their families over the years.

“Because I’ve been through losing a child myself, I’ve had a lot of empathy and always tried to lend a listening ear to understand where different families are coming from. I’m a people person, and if someone has a problem, I always do my best to try to help them solve it.”

Director of Nursing at CHW Alan Gardo said that Jill has made an invaluable contribution to the volunteer service and to the hospital community in general, and leaves big shoes to fill.

“With Jill at the helm of the volunteer service, there has been a great deal of support provided both through the deployment of volunteer staff and through fundraising efforts, always with a focus on providing the best care possible for our patients and their families.

“Jill has always been forthcoming with bright ideas and passionate about supporting our hospital community in any way possible. She has always ensured that all money raised goes directly towards creating a better and more manageable experience for children and families who come through our hospital. She will be missed tremendously by everyone.”

As for what’s next, Jill plans to pick a tennis racquet back up after a 25-year hiatus, join a walking group to fill the gap of her morning walks in Parramatta Park with Carol, and do some volunteer work with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which holds a special place in her heart. She’ll also be kept busy spending time with her five precious grandchildren.

While over the years it’s been Jill’s role to relay messages of gratification from staff and families to volunteers, it’s now our turn to relay a message of thanks from the whole community at CHW to Jill, as with the deepest gratitude we bid her farewell.