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Join in ... at Murray Bridge Visitor Information Centre
Sharon Gregory invites you to volunteer at the city's tourism hub.
It has been a little quieter at the Murray Bridge Visitor Information Centre over the past 18 months, Sharon Gregory admits.
With the state and international borders closed, it has been mainly South Australians who have walked down the vine-shaded tunnel off South Terrace and through the sliding doors lately.
More and more people do their holiday research online, too, and set their own itineraries.
But there will always be a place for good, old-fashioned customer service, for printed maps and advice from friendly local people.
The volunteers at the VIC like to spruik some Murraylands produce while they’re at it, too – their shelves are lined with Cottage Box chocolates, Bakehouse Farm honey and the like.
One of the longest-serving among them is Sharon Gregory.
When did you first get involved with the visitor information centre?
I’ve been here 15 and a half years, would you believe? We shifted to Murray Bridge and I was looking for a bit of casual work, with all my children having left home. I struggled to find work, since I didn’t have any qualifications and we weren’t known in town – we came from Loxton – and someone suggested volunteering. I went to Lerwin, the hospital and here. I got some work (later on) and had to cut my hours back, but I’ve stuck with the visitor information centre.
What do you spend your time doing every Wednesday?
Answering the phone would be the big thing. Our first priority is attending to anybody who comes through the door. You get a diverse range of questions. You're stocking up books in different areas, making it look appealing. Local products, you're trying to put them foremost. And with COVID we’re forever after wiping things down, sterilising and disinfecting, but that’s the way of the world now.
What do you get out of your involvement?
It’s rewarding with people, when you’re able to give them advice. It’s nice to have that opportunity to tell them what is available ... I enjoy the comradeship of it all. It’s a pleasant, relaxed environment ... For me it’s just a nice outlet, getting to know other people.
What is your fondest memory of your time with the visitor information centre?
Not so much since COVID, but before: the international travellers, their lifestyle, has always impressed me. The young ones cycling around Australia. One man in his 20s, he was cycling by himself to Western Australia, and I remember thinking “oh my God”. I wonder if he ever made it.
What is your goal as a volunteer?
I guess it’d just be giving my best to each individual you deal with as they come along. I don’t have any aspirations to be a coordinator one day. I’m just hoping to do my bit when I can, do it well and leave it at that.
Why should people volunteer at the visitor information centre?
It’s good stimulation for you, the social side of it, the interaction with other people. Volunteering in any aspect is a big plus for anyone willing to take it on. You get a lot more out of it than what you put in.
More information: For the visitor information centre, visit www.murraybridge.sa.gov.au; or to volunteer with the Rural City of Murray Bridge, visit www.murraybridge.sa.gov.au or contact Ngareta Cronin on 8539 1132 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclosure: The author accepted two chocolate frogs from visitor information centre volunteers for his young daughters, in exchange for their being well behaved while their father interviewed Ms Gregory.