Cockburn’s inspirational volunteer of the year commended for dedication

Ann Gerlach was named the City of Cockburn's
Inspirational Volunteer of the Year for 2019. Photo: Ben Smith.
Ann Gerlach was named the City of Cockburn's Inspirational Volunteer of the Year for 2019. Photo: Ben Smith.

WHEN she is not teaching people bush survival tactics and how to behave around poisonous snakes, Ann Gerlach throws herself into work for the Yangebup Family Centre.

It is this selfless dedication to the community centre which made her a double winner at the City of Cockburn Volunteer of the Year 2019 awards.

Despite spending time up north as part of her work as a bush survivalist and snake handler, Ms Gerlach’s steadfast dedication to the family centre has not gone unnoticed.

Since she first began attending the centre more than decade ago, she has spearheaded its dedication to diversity, belonging and sustainability.

She is a member of the board, has led a number of classes and programs, and is a regular at the centre, often putting her hand up to help out where need be.

Ms Gerlach said the family centre offered a wide range of programs to engage with the community and appeal to as many different people as possible.

“So many families now are disconnected from their own families,” she said.

“There’s so much isolation, but you need somewhere people can connect.”

“Having kids is fun, but it’s hard work and you don’t need to do it on your own. For the seniors, so many of them are isolated because their children have all moved away or they’re too busy, so we are always trying to get everyone to join in.”

Among the initiatives she has been involved with are a social sewing group, Plastic-Free July and a boomerang bag program.

“On a Monday night, one of the local bakeries will bring anything they haven’t sold that day,” she said. “People come in first thing Tuesday, grab a fabric bag they can put the bread in, take it home and then bring the bags back.”

Yangebup Family Centre manager Samantha Williams said Ms Gerlach was an inspiration.

“She’s been inspiring others to volunteer and she quietly goes about volunteering,” Ms Williams said.

“She’s got so many skills and a wealth of knowledge and we’re so fortunate she shares that with the community.”

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