Local Balwyn resident Verna Woods was recently awarded 2020 Volunteer of the Year for her tireless work running Balwyn High School’s second-hand book program.
Since establishing the second-hand bookshop in 1989 as an initiative of the Balwyn Chaplaincy Committee, Verna has transformed the way the 2,200 students and their parents access and sell second-hand books.
“When I first started, I was President of the Parents’ Committee. People would just come along on a particular night and trade books with each other and while it was a great community event, it wasn’t sustainable. I thought let’s get out there and see how other schools run their shops,” Verna said.
Verna and her sister visited multiple schools for inspiration and established a new system which has evolved and integrated new technology over the years.
“That’s one thing I love about this role, it pushes me to learn new things and gives purpose to the week. Knowing ‘I can do it’, when I feared I couldn’t manage those e-codes or changing timetables, or upgrading computers (wretched things),” Verna said.
Verna grew up in a culture of volunteering, with the norm in her family to lend a helping hand to those in need. Over the past 3 decades, Verna’s own family have all volunteered in the bookshop at certain points with all of her 6 children attending Balwyn High School.
The second-hand bookstore has been a wonderful resource for Balwyn High School. Thousands of books have been recycled, families have saved and made money through buying and selling respectively and proceeds from book sales have funded a trained Chaplain to provide support and guidance to the students of Balwyn High School.
Fellow bookshop volunteer Helen Schweiger nominated Verna for the award for being a true example of a selfless, humble volunteer.
“Hundreds of parents have made the pilgrimage to Verna’s front veranda to collect a carefully prepared plastic bag full of school books so their child can start school fully prepped. Verna has made, and continues to make, a significant difference to the lives of families in Boroondara,” Helen wrote.
Volunteering is about seeing. Noticing things that could be better, things that could help people, the environment, animals, situations. Seeing, then believing, then doing something about it.
If you are interested in volunteering your time to a community organisation in Boroondara, you can visit our new online portal to create a profile and start searching for volunteering opportunities.