Born in the year the Great Depression hit, Catherine Woods has experienced crises and wars before 2020.

“But this is the worst,” she says of the virus. “Nothing seems as bad as this pandemic.”

She recalls her family being put out of their farm, an orange orchard, when she was a child because no-one had enough money to buy the fruit her father grew.

“None of us went hungry then because we and other growers would share and swap our produce,” she remembers.

The family bunked in at her mum’s brother’s place and then her father got road work, part of the big public works scheme at the time to boost employment and infrastructure at once.

When Catherine and her own family moved into North Ryde in 1957, it was all farmland there too, being opened up for first time to suburban developers. After losing her husband, Catherine did a lot more driving but, by the time she turned 88, she wanted to stop driving and needed help carrying heavy shopping so she signed up for help from SCS staff. This ‘accompanied activities’ service is part of our individual social support program and although Catherine can use this companion support for all sorts of activities, she uses it mainly for shopping and accessing other local Cox’s Road village services.

“It’s great: the girls push your trolley and get it into the car – it’s like having your husband back!  They even offer to put the shopping away for me but I don’t need that done. We go to the IGA, the newsagent, the cakeshop, get whatever I need, then we stop at a café before coming home.”

Catherine appreciates the friendly companionship of the service which runs for two hours.

“They know your story and you know theirs,” she says of the handful of support staff she has had over the years.

If staff change, she says it doesn’t take long to “train them up” in her preferred products.

“One of the girls, when she was new to me, just took photos of each item so she would know for next time.”

“Even during the shutdown, the shopping service didn’t stop.  I wasn’t going out at all so I just wrote the list and the girls picked it up before they shopped,” she says.

Bernadine Wijesekera, who coordinates the individual social support program, says flexibility has worked well for both Catherine and Sydney Community Services’ support workers: “Catherine’s considerate ways and willingness to be flexible around changes, especially lately, have helped the service go smoothly for everyone.”

Catherine and other clients of the accompanied activities support prefer this one-on-one service to a local bus which takes half a day to pick everyone up and drop them back and leaves less time for shopping in between. With this individual service, they not only avoid  some heavy lifting, but they appreciate the company, and being able to choose their own timing.

Sydney Community Services also runs  Phone Shopping  and Village Bus services around Lane Cove.

See more about our shopping services here.