The joy of giving is Dave's driving force
Dave Lovell’s an irrepressibly cheerful chap who’s dedicated his life to serving and giving generously to others.
Since retiring from a long career as a secondary school maths teacher, he’s devoted much of his time over the past 12 years to volunteering as a van driver at St Andrew’s Village in Glendowie – bringing cheer to the village’s elderly residents by taking them on regular outings.
As we talk, Dave’s passion and delight for his volunteer role is palpable. A recent injury (more on that later) may have seen him laid up – but his infectious enthusiasm is unabated.
Dave’s initial connection to the village was through his mother.
‘My mother lived there for 10 years – up until she died in 2020, aged 99. I was going in every morning and every night to see her. I could see they needed volunteer drivers, so after I retired I signed up as a volunteer driving the residents on outings 4 or 5 times a week.’
Within days of serving as a volunteer van driver, Dave found that his role was the perfect combination of helping and empowering others, and meeting many different people – hearing about their life stories, experiences, and memories.
The role quickly became a way for him to connect with people from all stages of life. His friendly demeanour and incredible ability to communicate with different people distinguished Dave as a unique and cherished volunteer at St Andrew’s Village.
Over the years, more volunteers have joined the team – and while Dave gradually reduced his driving to a day each week, has also done stints as a volunteer visitor to some of the village’s residents.
‘There was one guy who played chess – but he was really good, and I’m hopeless!’ he laughs. ‘I played mahjong with one lady. But others it’s just keeping them company and having a nice chat.’
Dave believes that there is tremendous value in volunteering, and feels a sense of fulfilment and when he volunteers.
‘I get real enjoyment from it. When I see them enjoying themselves, it’s really wonderful.’
Dave regularly takes residents with dementia on outings, and a caregiver and a member of the village’s activities staff go along with them.
He’s got a number of regular routes that are residents’ favourites – such as along Tamaki Drive, with its views of the harbour and the boats that our City of Sails is famous for.
‘The men with dementia especially love to see the boats. They’ll say “gosh, I haven’t been along here in years”, even though we’d been there the previous week. The Waterview Tunnel’s also very popular – and I often take them out to Ardmore to watch the little planes,’ he says.
‘We always finish with an icecream as a treat. It’s really wonderful to watch how much fun they have enjoying something as simple as eating an icecream.’
The various Covid lockdowns and restrictions in recent years meant periods where the outings simply weren’t possible to do safely. ‘It made the outings even more special once were able to do them again,’ says Dave.
Dave’s had to take a break from his beloved driving since badly injuring his knee in a fall – which saw him having urgent surgery and spending some weeks in hospital. In an ironic twist, he then spent several more weeks in respite care at St Andrew’s Village, as the severity of his injuries meant he was not able to manage on his own for the first part of his recovery.
He’s still recuperating – and is looking forward to getting back to his van driving once he’s back to fighting fit.
‘I would totally recommend volunteering to others. But you can’t go into it with any expectations. You have to volunteer just for the joy of giving, and seeing the enjoyment it gives to others … from seeing them have fun.’
As boy, Dave’s grandfather often told him: ‘The greatest joy in life is to give, so you must learn to receive so others can have the joy.’
They’re words he’s lived by. The first part was easy, as Dave loves to give – and has learned first-hand how helping others has enriched his own life. The second part didn’t come naturally to Dave, who admits he secretly squirms when people pay him a compliment.
‘But you have let them have the joy of giving to you. When someone pays you a compliment don’t say things like “oh, it was nothing”, because it spoils their joy. Even if it makes you uncomfortable, try saying something like “thank you – that’s so kind”. Let them have that joy,’ he says.
‘Dave’s is an inspiration to everyone at St Andrew’s,’ says the village’s volunteer co-ordinator Robyn Liddle.
‘His service and generosity to others is a testament to the power of volunteering. The many benefits to volunteers include contributing to others, building meaningful relationships, and the chance to learn new skills and explore new interests.
‘Dave and volunteers like him play a crucial role in giving the residents also have experiences and opportunities that enhance their lives.’
WOULD YOU LIKE TO HELP?
If you’d like to join Dave and the team as a volunteer van driver, you can get more information here:
About St Andrew’s Village
St Andrew’s has been providing elder care for more than 50 years – with retirement living villas and apartments, and aged care options including rest home, dementia care, respite, and dementia care.