Cottage conversations – interview with Volunteer Michele
Volunteering at Cottage by the Sea is a meaningful way to help us achieve our mission of providing inspiration, opportunity and fun to more children. While Cottage Volunteers don’t work directly with the children on Programs, they provide important assistance on everyday tasks and make up the many different layers of our organisation, which contributes to enhancing the experiences of our visiting children.
Our Volunteers donate their time and assistance to help with tasks related to administration, the kitchen, archiving, donations, maintenance and gardening, as well as Morning and Afternoon Teas and other key areas of operation. Cottage Volunteers are valued members of our team who share our understanding of what we aim to achieve and our values.
We are fortunate to have new Volunteers come on board every year – we welcomed 16 new Volunteers in 2023 – and we are also grateful to have long-term support. Many of Cottage’s Volunteers have been here for more than 10 years – our longest, Sandra, has been here for two decades! In this story, we chat with Volunteer Michele about her experiences volunteering in the Cottage kitchen over the past 10 years.
The start of a volunteering journey
Working as a teacher in special education and beginning her career in home economics, Michele spent her working life living in Melbourne and used to holiday down the coast. When she retired, she embraced the sea change, moved to Ocean Grove and wanted to spend her time meaningfully. “I was looking for something to do,” explains Michele. “I was amazed at this place, Cottage – it was something I’d never seen before.”
Michele is a relative to our previous Chef Marc, so helping out in the kitchen was a natural choice. “I like cooking,” she explains. Her specialties are baking muffins and florentines. She loves baking Marc’s White Chocolate and Mixed Berry Muffins recipe, which is featured in the Cottage Cookbook. “This is a great recipe I use here at the Cottage all the time. The kids and staff love them!” shared Marc in the recipe book. Michele’s own delicious Florentines recipe is also featured in the Cottage Cookbook (pictured above), among many other tasty recipes from Cottage Volunteers, Ambassadors, Branch members, staff members and past Mentor participants.
Michele loves being in the Cottage kitchen, supporting Chef Kim to prepare meals for the visiting children. “It’s always fun in the kitchen,” Michele says – making jokes with Kim and having a great time with the other kitchen Volunteers.
The importance of community and belonging
Volunteering at Cottage creates a sense of belonging and community, which are two of our values.
There is a strong community feel to the group of Volunteers at Cottage. Michele and many of Cottage’s Volunteers are actively involved in the community and belong to other community groups on the Bellarine Peninsula. It is how many Volunteers get involved with Cottage and it has been a way to bring local areas together. “You get to know a lot of people,” shares Michele.
Moira from Cottage’s finance department walks past and says hello. “The staff here are beautiful – I love it when they pop their head in the kitchen,” shares Michele. “Everyone is so friendly. It is the way it works here – everybody helps. I love coming here.”