Join the Crew: it was a dream come true!

By Vanessa Wiltshire

MY NAME is Vanessa Wiltshire and I came to Heathcote three years ago with my husband, Trev, and our red heeler, Maggie.

Join the Crew has been months in the making. I am aware much has gone before me, even before I arrived in Heathcote. This event is about drawing on the strengths and experiences of everyone who has does, or still, lives, works and volunteers in Heathcote.

Join the Crew came out of a leadership program I participated in earlier this year called, LEAD Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program.

One of the requirements was to undertake an impactful project that would add value to the town and region I live in.

Anyone who knows me knows I don’t do anything half-baked. Beginning in February, I thought long and hard. I spoke to several people in Heathcote about what to do.

One day I was thinking back to my days at Monash University. In the late 90s, there was something called “O Week” where all the clubs and societies on campus would get together and showcase their members and activities.

Of course there was some alcohol involved, but that’s not for today!

It was one of the greatest events on the uni calendar. It brought people together in a way no other event did. There was no social media back then, and really no other way of finding out what was happening on campus.

I made many friends in O Week, particularly in my first year.

Around May, I had an idea. What if Heathcote had its own O Week? One of the toughest things I found moving here from Melbourne was making new friends and finding a sense of place.

I’ll be truthful, it wasn’t easy. Working for the McIvor Times has literally been my lifeline. The connections and friendships I've made are beyond anything else I've encountered.

It’s not easy fitting in. I’ve lived in small-town Canada and downtown Paris. I’ve lived all over Melbourne; inner city, suburbs, and by the beach.

The times I felt best about where I lived, was because I was part of something. A school, community or group.

Loneliness is a terrible thing. This is why I’ve developed Join the Crew. It’s about taking some time out of our busy lives, to look up from the screens. It’s about reconnecting face to face.

Humans are social animals. We need each other.

Join the Crew is about showcasing our fantastic community groups, to talk about volunteering and how things get done. No-one is coming to save us.

Heathcote is not alone when it comes to the struggle of keeping community groups alive.

Just about every group would like more volunteers. But is this the solution?

Today I hope to start a conversation. When you chat to people, think about how you can help them. We have so many resources we can share. Together we can do incredible things.

Here’s an example: With the support of everyone today, I’ve been able to make a large event happen that didn’t cost a lot of money. With stallholder fees and Community Bank sponsorship, it means we can give at least half to the Heathcote Men’s Shed, after overheads are met.

Co-ordinating Join the Crew has been an absolute pleasure, it has not felt like ‘work’.

First and foremost, I’d like to thank my husband, Trevor, who is Join the Crew’s secretary. We have had regular meetings almost every night for the past three months. He supports me and my ideas and I could not do this without him.

I’d like to thank the Heathcote Community Bank Branch for their kind sponsorship.

I’d like to thank Mandalay Resources for sponsoring me to do the LEAD Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program.

I’d like to thank my employer, McPherson Media, for understanding the commitment to the program. And for the wonderful support through articles and social media.

Thanks to the Heathcote Football Netball Club for running the kiosk today. This is a fundraiser for them, and I encourage you to support them by buying the wonderful food they have prepared.

Thank you to Advance Heathcote Inc for being event auspice. Thank you to Ray White Heathcote for making the day a little sweeter with fairy floss.

Thank you to my volunteers and mentors: Eliza Barnbrook, Clare Voitin, Craig Guy, Tanya Brnjak, Sandra Slatter.

Thank you to all speakers who have shared their experiences. I don't take you for granted, and we be doing a big write up in the McIvor Times.

Thank you to Member for Euroa Steph Ryan, and City of Greater Bendigo Mayor Margaret O'Rourke for your support.

To every community group and stallholder and the Barrack Reserve Committee of Management, thank you. Without your trust and support Join the Crew would not be happening.

Finally, today is a day to recognise the work of the Heathcote Men’s Shed committee. The building is now established. It is going to be an incredibly important resource for Heathcote, and they need our support. The money we raise today through gold coin entry and a raffle is really a signifier of the investment they need, both in people power, time and money.

It is important for people to have a place to belong, to make new friends and do meaningful work. The Men's Shed will be one of those places for Heathcote. Thank you.