Years of volunteering and the love of art

A TOTAL shoulder reconstruction won't stop Ellen Widdowson doing what she loves.

She does not know if her arm will be out of a sling by the opening of the Bundaberg Arts Festival on October 5, but “I'll still be able to take the entry money”, Ellen assured.

Volunteering is in Ellen's blood.

“My first volunteering experience was as a waitress at the United Nations Service Club during WWII when I was 16. When troop trains came through with American servicemen and women they came to have a meal and there was an Air Force base in Bundy too,” Ellen said.

Ellen worked as a law clerk/legal stenographer until she married.

“I didn't work after I got married so I had plenty of time to play tennis,” she laughed.

“That's why I've recently had to have a shoulder reconstruction. I wore out my shoulder playing tennis, squash and golf - with varying degrees of proficiency.”

These weren't the only activities Ellen undertook.

She's played first violin with the Bundaberg Symphony Orchestra for 20 years, volunteered with Meals on Wheels for 40 years, the Bundaberg Eisteddfod Committee for more than 20 years, the Floral Art Group for 10 years, Hinkler House for 20 years, and the Bundaberg Arts Festival since its inception.

“The arts festival was the idea of TAFE college director Bill Reedman, who was involved with the Bundaberg Rotary Club and the Arts Society.”

Ellen was already a member of the Arts Society so she naturally joined the committee of the new Bundaberg Arts Festival.

“Opening night was Wednesday, September 28 1977 at the TAFE College,” she recalled.

“Thirty-three years on, Ellen is a fixture at the yearly exhibition at the civic centre.

“As well as administrative duties such as checking catalogues and entries and accepting entries, I also help on the door. I haven't hung for a long time because of my sore shoulder,” said Ellen, then laughed and amended, “hung paintings”.

In 2007 she was awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her work with cultural activities and service to social welfare organisations.

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