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Anne O’Connor and Ellie-May, and Ellie-May with a resident at the Forrest Center (Supplied)

When volunteer numbers in aged care were cut in half because of the COVID-19 pandemic, countless residents lost valuable support and connection. Many of our most generous community members were also forced to give up their much-loved commitments. Source: HelloCare.

Now, those numbers are on the rise and Wagga Wagga aged care volunteer Anne O’Connor is bringing warmth and joy to her local aged care home in the form of her four-legged friend, Maltese Shih Tzu Ellie May.

Ms O’Connor and Ellie May visit Wagga Wagga’s The Forrest Centre, an 80-bed not-for-profit home, each week where Ms O’Connor is a pastoral care volunteer. She visits to connect with the residents, talk about their lives or provide support where needed. The duo are a match made in heaven.

“[Ellie May’s] the best icebreaker. She’s really good for that, then they love to chat. They’re lovely people and it’s a nice way to fill a little bit of time,” Ms O’Connor said.

Ms O’Connor started volunteering at The Forrest Centre by taking communion to Catholic residents. Now she dedicates two days per week to volunteering; she visits with Ellie May on one day, and on the other she helps operate the music for the Anglican church service.

For Ms O’Connor, volunteering is just an extension of her love of connection with others and catching up with old friends. 

“I enjoy talking to the oldies. They just love having someone to talk to … and, most of all, they want to see the dog.”

The Forrest Centre CEO Evan Robertson expressed his gratitude for Ms O’Connor – and Ellie May. He said both have made a huge difference in residents’ lives.

Ms O’Connor’s work in Wagga Wagga has even garnered national attention from the Aged and Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA).

She’s been nominated in ACCPA’s You are ACE! Recognition awards that recognise excellence across all aged care settings. 


Two generous hearts and one wagging tail bring joy to care residents (By Alex Jacobs, HelloCare)