Organised acts of kindness
CEE Utz could be forgiven for thinking life has dealt her a tough hand.
She has battled cancer since she was 16.
First a melanoma, then breast cancer, then cervical and ovarian cancer ... then last year at the age of 59 she was diagnosed for a second time with breast cancer.
For many people the repetitive horror would be enough for them to throw up their hands in despair, or defeat.
Yet this dynamic Southern Downs woman simply looks beyond her own life and sees those in more heart-wrenching predicaments.
Then she organises acts of kindness to brighten the lives of those struggling through tough times.
These acts of kindness come under the banner of the newly formed Leyburn Care and Share group: A concept Mrs Utz and her long-standing friend Christel Hetherington initiated earlier this year.
“We just wanted to help those people, who needed a hand but are too proud to ask or don’t have anyone to turn too,” she explained.
“The concept really came to the fore during the recent floods when Leyburn was cut off from the outside world for 11 days.
“Christel and I had well-stocked pantries, so we dropped around meals or made up food hampers for those not so fortunate.”
But the pair weren’t content to just be culinary lifesavers.
Enlisting the generous help of other locals, they arrived unannounced at homes affected by flood waters and helped remove wet carpet and clean walls.
Their spontaneous visits revealed other needs: Elderly people with clothes to mend or without transport and school students short of books.
“I lived on the Sunshine Coast before Leyburn and I have always been involved in community work with the SES and Red Cross,” Mrs Utz said.
“I have five children and a wonderful husband in Fred, so I have great support.
“But I know what it is like to feel alone.
“A lot of people fall through the gaps are left feeling unsure and unwilling to ask for assistance.”
In the wake of the flood, the Leyburn Care and Share group established a community driven “disaster management plan”.
A simple chart showing: which local residents were living in flood prone areas; who had their own transport and who would need assistance if the water rose again.
“As a community, we need to be able to help ourselves, because during times like the floods we really are quite isolated from Warwick or Toowoomba,” Mrs Utz said.
Helping yourself could well be the mantra this courageous woman lives by.
Neither she nor Christel wants thanks for their generosity, gratified instead by the soul satisfying feeling of good deeds.
“I have always tried to look at life positively,” Mrs Utz explained.
“Sure, I have had times when I wondered if I could cope.
“But I love Fred and he is wonderful and positive.
“And my children have always been there for me.”
It is just 23 weeks since her second mastectomy.
By rights she should still be in recovery mode.
Instead she is planning a trip to Warwick to buy groceries for an elderly neighbour.
Then she and Christel have volunteered to finish a cleaning job in a flood-ravaged Leyburn home.
And those she helps know it is not about money or personal glory.
“Some people are doing it tough so, if they drop some tomatoes in when they are going past or put a few coins in the care and share box, that’s enough.”
On a personal note the group has given her yet another reason to beat cancer.
“I am going to survive, because there is so much still to be done.”
Want to be part of some organised acts of kindness? Then head along to the Leyburn Care and Share February meeting at 9.30am Monday at the QCWA Hall. Details 0409 647768.