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Volunteer Kylie ‘part of the furniture’ at Bendigo Salvos

Gaining special friendships has been a wonderful part of volunteering for Kylie (right), who has enjoyed getting to know Dylan (left) and others at the Bendigo Salvos Community Shed.

When Kylie Thomsen was aged just four, she was hit by a car while crossing the road – her little body broken from head to foot. It was to change her life forever. But tough times have been no deterrent for this extraordinary lady who has given more than 20 years of voluntary service to her beloved Salvos. With International Volunteer Day upon us, Salvos Online writer LERISSE SMITH chatted with Kylie about her love of helping others and why it gets her up every day.


It was one fateful family day out with her parents that was to change the trajectory of Kylie’s life forever.

With the sun shining and her mum grabbing much-awaited cuppas for both herself and her husband, little Kylie excitedly ran across the road to tell her dad his coffee was ready. But instead of fixing her eyes on the road, she gazed up to the neighbouring hillside.

It was then Kylie’s life was to change in an instant. A car accidentally ran into her, resulting in not only a broken body but permanent brain damage, too.

“It’s been life-altering as it stays with you for life,” Kylie reflected.

“But I just push my sleeves up and get up each day to give a helping hand to others. It doesn’t matter what it is or where, if help is needed and I can do it, then I will do it.”

And Kylie has indeed done it – many times over. Since becoming a volunteer at 28, Kylie has walked into the doors of The Salvation Army’s Bendigo Corps Community Services every week for more than 20 years and loved every minute of it.

Kylie (left) enjoys chatting with some ladies at the women’s shed and says volunteering with The Salvation Army has improved her life.

Her achievements span a long list.

Kylie has undertaken a myriad of projects over the years – from helping to create special items for the Army’s church premises and assisting programs at the Community Services premises, including those connected with the NDIS, through to helping people at the coalface during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, she helped to create a large timber Christian cross, signifying the crucifixion of Jesus, which is a key feature at the Community Services’ waiting room, plus an eight-foot benchtop at its café.

Pandemic assistance

Another testament to Kylie’s love of serving people and her selflessness is driving the Army’s church bus on Sundays to pick up people coming to church and then dropping them home afterwards.

One key volunteer mission Kylie fondly recalls was when she served the local Bendigo community members throughout the pandemic. Her tasks included assisting the local food pantry and chef with cooking community meals for locals struggling through the crisis.

And when the floods hit the local region last year, Kylie and the team from Bendigo Emergency Services pumped up many bed mattresses for people unable to reside in their homes. Initially, there were no air compressors, quality pumps or any other items to help, so Kylie pumped up the mattresses with a little hand pump.

“I felt really proud that I actually had done two beds on my own before they came in with an air compressor,” she said.

“Many people were affected by the floods. I was driving our church bus to take people to the op shops to get clean clothes, plus caravan parks and hotels. I really went out on a limb to help them through being involved with the mobile cooking trucks, the emergency services and preparing meals as a lot of people were coming in that needed assistance.”

So, why does Kylie volunteer?

“I just want to help people and, you know, to feel better within myself, too,” she said. “And to know I have helped someone that day.”

Where it all started

Kylie’s foray into the volunteer world began around 2003 when she was undertaking a special woodworking program at the Community Services’ premises and mentioned to her supervisor at that time, Dave, that she wanted to work for the Salvos having been helped by the Army during various times of her life. Her overriding reason was that she wanted to give something back.

“My exact words to Dave were ‘I want to do something for the Salvos’,” Kylie said.

“I told Dave I didn’t want to work in the garden because that was too slack for me, and I was not brainy enough to go on the computers. So, I didn’t know where to go. Dave just then grinned at me and said, “How about you start here with me?

“I then said, ‘But if I like it, you probably won't get rid of me.’ Dave had a bit of a chuckle – and yeah, I am still there today!”

Many light and fun moments have also formed part of Kylie’s journey. She recollected helping out in the gardens, something she swore she would never do, and moving about 30 cubic metres of soil, plus erecting a steel frame for a shade mesh to go over the top of the vegetables. A further memorable moment was the time she ended up covered in grease after offering to clean ovens from the services’ café that were not working due to a build-up of oil and fat.

Life-changing commitment

Bendigo Community Services Manager Belinda Smith said Kylie’s contribution, commitment, and caring nature had been invaluable during her time at the Salvos.

“To say she is part of the family would be an understatement,” Belinda said.

“Kylie epitomises what we love to have in our volunteers. Her willingness to help others and preparedness to go above and beyond when asked is truly inspiring. We appreciate all that she does here at The Salvation Army, so this is a great opportunity to say thank you.” – Belinda Smith

When Kylie started volunteering, she came to the services hub five days a week. She now has paid employment one day a week and attends two days, including assisting the Women’s Shed. Always accompanying her is Kylie’s beloved dog, Sebbi.

“Volunteering and being at Community Services has really changed my life,” she said.

“I have gone through a lot in my life with my upbringing and other stuff. I was really nervous and could not talk to people initially. But now I am able to talk to people and have a conversation with them. My main catchphrase is, ‘Hi mate, how are you going?’ and I like to walk alongside people and try to encourage people.

“I’ve really enjoyed being a volunteer. To just be around people and to learn new things. And when something happens, you know, you can turn around and say, you know, I was a part of that.”

Aside from volunteering, Kylie’s proud accomplishment is completing her Certificate 4 in Disability. And, in her spare time, she also loves to crochet blankets to assist the Salvos.

So, what’s Kylie’s advice to anyone wanting to volunteer? It’s a simple one.

“Give it a go,” she said. “Because you will get friends out of it, and it will be good. Knowing that I’m helping the community and knowing I am walking alongside people when they really need someone is a really good feeling.”

Kylie thrives on learning new things and has created some beautiful and special items at the Services’ Community Shed.


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