By Cam Lucadou-Wells
At a spritely 94 years, Betty Keen is one of Hallam’s most enduring volunteers.
Ms Keen received a well-deserved long-service award as one of the forces behind the 43-year-old Hallam Red Cross unit on 21 June.
She’s been a member for 30 years and secretary for 20 years. She only recently stood down as secretary due to the rise of “modern technology” such as internet and email.
“They never taught me any of that at school,” she chuckles.
For years, Ms Keen had been fundraising for Red Cross appeals and causes – such as goods for flood victims and food for refugees in Australia.
She’s organised cake and plant stalls in Doveton, Hallam and Narre Warren, Trauma Teddies for young hospital-patients, bedding for house-fire victims and bus trips for members to Crown Casino and NSW.
“It’s been a job I’ve enjoyed doing. We’ve had a good group of workers – I did the organising but they did the work.
“We’ll see if the girls can continue to do it. Two or three of us are now over 90 (years old).”
She pitched in, after neighbours and friends talked her into joining more than 30 years ago.
Ms Keen has also seen many Red Cross fundraising groups in the region fall by the wayside. The annual Red Cross Calling door-knocks have also become a thing of the past.
“We can’t do door-knocking anymore. We used to know of our neighbours, but these days we hardly know any of them.”
Time has also caught up with Ms Keen’s other great passion, Hallam Senior Citizens Group.
It closed down on Friday 24 June because it could no longer get enough ageing members to form a committee, she says.
Hallam Red Cross’s new secretary Robert Read says Ms Keen epitomises the closeness felt by the unit’s committee members.
Ms Keen still phones the Red Cross unit members on a near daily basis, Mr Read says.
“She’s got a lot of friends. She’s the type of person that if you have an issue, she will try to assist wherever she can.”
Mr Read paid tribute to Ms Keen’s energy and community leadership, such as helping to set up Bendigo Bank branch in Hallam.
She’s also been part of the committee-of-management at Hallam Community Centre, and City of Casey groups.
“I’d say she has been very knowledgeable in the things she gets involved in.
“She has a lot of contacts in the community and works very hard. And she’s a very good speaker when she starts talking about a subject.”