Not even Covid-19 can lockdown Glory's generous spirit

At 81 years and legally blind, Glory Smith could have fixated on her own health worries as the second wave of COVID-19 swept through Victoria. Instead, Glory chose to dedicate herself to being a lifeline to other elderly people feeling isolated and frightened through the lockdown.

Glory with guide dog Hetty 580The Frankston resident is a HammondCare volunteer who has committed to regular phone calls offering friendship and support to HammondCare At Home clients.

“These people need to know that someone out there cares about them,” she said. “I call them every fortnight for a catch-up chat to see how they are doing. I’ll call them more frequently if they want me to.”

Before COVID-19, HammondCare volunteers would spend face-to-face time with clients in their homes, but infection control measures lead volunteers to switch to regular catch up phone calls.

Glory started with HammondCare as a volunteer three months ago following many years of volunteer work with Christian counselling service Careline. She has been legally blind now for some years, retaining only some peripheral vision. First her left eye gave out due to macular degeneration. Then, sometime later, her remaining right eye failed after a blood pressure episode linked to bronchitis.

Her much-loved dog Hetty, a golden retriever Labrador cross supplied by Vision Australia, has become her eyes. The two are inseparable.

New ways to help others

Instead of letting her visual disability slow her down, Glory found new ways to continue her lifelong passion of helping others.

From her home, Glory uses her mobile phone, with numbers enlarged to the biggest font, to make calls. An app, which turns emails into verbal messages, allows her to stay in contact with HammondCare.

She talks fondly of one client, Carolyn, who is a Kiwi like she is. Their common background meant the two hit it off instantly, discussing places in New Zealand they both knew.

The one subject she usually avoids with all her clients is the pandemic.

“It’s on everyone’s mind all the time and quite frankly they want to talk about something else,” she said. “I know exactly what it’s like to have health issues and be frightened about what is going on.

“I have not been into Frankston myself since March 12 – I remember the day – because I knew I might be at risk.”

An amazing woman

Glory, a retired retail worker, has two daughters, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Her daughter Tracey said her mum has always wanted to help others, regardless of her own health difficulties which also include surviving cancer.

“Mum never stopped even when she lost her eyesight. She wants to keep going forward. She is an amazing woman,” Tracey said.

Volunteer Coordinator Anna DiGiacomo said she has had seven volunteers, including Glory, calling home care clients through the lockdown.

“Glory is very popular with the clients and they absolutely love her,” Anna said.

She said the phone calls have been so appreciated by clients and they are likely to continue, even with the gradual easing of infection risk and restrictions in recent weeks.

More information about volunteering with HammondCare